Divorce on hold: how a collaborative law approach can help avoid long court delays
Lockdown has put a great strain on a great many couples. It may have pushed some already strained relationships beyond breaking point and towards separation and divorce.
For many couples, going to court may seem the default pathway ahead, but with long delays and cases being adjourned, is this the best way forward? LGFL Director and experienced mediator Anne Leiper explains how a collaborative law approach to separation can be less stressful, less costly and less time consuming.
Lockdown may be easing, but the backlog of ‘normal’ legal activities delayed by the pandemic is still building. It’s been a time of great uncertainty since the end of March for those looking to divorce. Many courts are still closed, and judges are adjourning hearings without reference to the parties. Even with many hearings taking place remotely via video conferencing, there are still potentially weeks or months of delays ahead.
Why choose collaborative law
Collaborative law offers an alternative to the uncertainty of when, and indeed how, a family court will deal with your divorce. Instead, collaborative law brings together both parties and their legal team outside of the court jurisdiction, to settle the financial claims arising as a result of your divorce or separation.
Collaborative law via video conferencing
Collaborative law through remote video meetings works especially well, as it provides a route for your meetings to occur safely. Crucially, the collaborative process will mean that there is no delay and no court-imposed time limits. You have complete control over the timing and duration of the meetings, and you are not going to be limited by the judge’s time and availability on the day.
At LGFL, we have conducted meetings using all of the most popular video apps with great success, including Zoom, MS Teams, Skype and Lifesize (a common app for court hearings too). We will deal with all the technical side of connecting, so you can just log in at the specific time with us alongside you in the virtual space.
The downside of remote court hearings
The difficulty with remote court hearings is that we have lost that flexibility of being in the court building, and able to negotiate outside of the courtroom. In a remote court hearing, there will be a fixed time only due to the judge’s availability, and no allowance for that “court corridor” time to negotiate.
This is why in these days of remote hearing as the default option, the collaborative approach comes into its own. As a team, we can “meet” with your spouse and their team to negotiate a financial solution, without the need for a court hearing.
Where needed, you can bring in experts to give you the pensions and financial advice you may require. As your legal team, we can advise on legal matters and facilitate the meetings, moving the process forward at the pace you are happy with.
At the moment, we cannot predict how long delays may be. However, given the accumulated backlog, delays could be quite considerable for several months yet. Collaborative law allows both the parties to keep control of their cases, which is a much less stressful situation than waiting on a court date only to find it’s been adjourned.
Book a 1 hour consultation with 30 minutes free to discuss your unique circumstances, or see our Collaborative Law page for more details.
Mediation post lockdown
Mediation is another way for your and your spouse to avoid court hearings ad resolve family law issues between yourselves. We’ve been offering mediation services at LGFL for years, and the only thing the pandemic has really altered is that now it’s conducted online rather than in a neutral space such as our offices. We’ve also adapted our own procedure for remote mediations and mediation agreements accordingly.
Professional mediation can help sort out family law disputes between you and your partner. With the help of your independent mediator, you can create child and family solutions without the need for court proceedings.
In my experience, mediation via video platforms such as Zoom actively removes obstacles to communication rather than the other way around. Many clients actually prefer this online mediation, as they no longer have to sit in the same room as their partner, and find it easier to talk as a result. Each party can feel safe in their individual physical space, and often are more ready to listen and come to an agreement as a result.
Why choose mediation?
Mediation puts you much more in control than litigation. Mediation gives you the space to discuss the important issues around your marriage or relationship breakdown, such as:
- Child arrangements
- Financial settlements
- Immediate living arrangements
The neutral online space and the presence of an impartial mediator enables you to sit back and listen. So, you hear the other party's point of view. You each understand where the other is coming from. This can lead to much better, longer-lasting relationships between the two of you, especially important for those wanting to co-parent in the future.
To discuss your own particular situation, call us and book a 1-hour consultation with 30 minutes free. Or see our Collaborative Law page for more details.
Why choose LGFL mediation?
In the case of mediation services from LGFL, you have the added advantage of your mediator, myself, also being an experienced family lawyer. My role as a mediator is neutral. I don’t (and indeed cannot) represent any party involved. Instead, I’m a facilitator to help you and your former partner have those discussions directly between you, in a safe environment.
Four key benefits of mediation
- Mediation can break the deadlock between you and your partner if you’re struggling to agree on any or all aspects of your separation.
- Mediation can also build stronger relationships between you, especially important for your future roles as co-parents. Stronger relationships can also make life so much easier at those important future family events that are going to inevitably come up; weddings, christenings, and graduations.
- Mediation strengthens any agreements you make. An agreement that you reach together is much stronger than one imposed by a court. I think this is because mediation is a much less destructive process than litigation, and based on agreement not blame
- Mediation bypasses the need to go to court in order to achieve resolution. If you want to resolve your relationship breakdown in a reasonable timeframe and with less stress for you and your family, mediation could be the answer.