I qualified as a solicitor in 1986 and joined Wiseman Lee a year later. At that time most solicitors were general practitioners, so I might have done a bit of advocacy in the Magistrates Court in the morning, maybe representing a drink driver or a shop lifter; I might have prepared a will around lunch time, then worked on a landlord and tenant case in the afternoon, before preparing a deed poll for someone who wanted to change their name.
Things have moved on. It was not long after I qualified that we started to specialise more. We were then called divorce lawyers or matrimonial solicitors. Nowadays, all I do is this kind of work, but we are now called family lawyers. Our job is to provide specialist legal advice to separating couples, be they married, unmarried, gay or straight. We tend to advise on finance and property on the breakdown of a relationship, as well as disputes concerning children.
Twenty-five years ago, if someone wanted a divorce they would go and see their local solicitor, and that solicitor would often add to the stress and acrimony by writing letters that were inflammatory. I am pleased to say that in the 21st century, for most specialist family lawyers, those days are gone. I belong to an organisation called Resolution and their members are committed to helping separating couples resolve their matters in a constructive and non-confrontational way. Google ‘Resolution‘ and look at their website to see exactly what I mean.
Resolution members are lawyers and other professionals who are committed to resolving family disputes by way of collaborative law. This is an increasingly popular alternative to using the courts for resolving matrimonial and family disputes. It is proving to be a successful approach to handling sensitive and emotional issues.
Very few people claim to have had a good experience when getting divorced, or dealing with issues about child contact or finances. Many complain they felt alone or out of control and wary of the uncertainties of being caught up in the traditional court-based system. This is now entirely avoidable, as the collaborative approach allows each of the separating parties to take control.
While you may still need court proceedings to obtain a formal divorce to end the marriage, all other issues are discussed and dealt with at four-way meetings at a time and place you have chosen. This means you get to discuss the issues directly with your spouse, but you each have your own specially-trained solicitor on hand to give you advice and to assist you both to ensure the discussions are constructive.
Both you and your spouse have to sign up to an agreement at the outset to confirm that you will not go to court to resolve the disputes. This gives you the freedom to negotiate issues without the threat of court action. Provided both of you enter and complete the process in good faith, it is quicker and cheaper than the traditional court approach. It is also less acrimonious, which can be particularly important if young children are involved.
This article was originally published in the Wanstead Village Directory on Wednesday 12th of November 2014 and you can find the original article here.
For more information or to contact Jonathan directly you can send a message direct from his information page here.