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January divorces and the recession

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January is notoriously a busy time for divorce lawyers. Whether it was one too many arguments over the festive period or a realisation, when making New Year's resolutions that this time last year someone was unhappy, traditionally January is a busy time. The extended time spent together as a family; the excesses of alcohol all pave the way to a decision that a marriage or relationship is over. Even prior to the Christmas break we had a number of new appointments in the diary for January.

We noticed in the latter part of 2009 that we were receiving a number of enquiries from those about to separate who were wanting to put matters on hold until this year - a multitude of reasons were given, largely though revolving around money. Some felt that until property prices increased or share prices rose it just wasn't worth fighting over what little money was available. It's hard enough splitting the marital assets in two, but even more so when the value of those assets is so low. Once a settlement is reached, it is in full and final settlement of all claims either may have against the other. Therefore, we have found that people have been holding off sorting out the finances on divorce until the economy recovers.  Independent research by http://www.unbiased.co.uk/ confirms that 72% of Solicitors believe the economic downturn has influenced client's attitudes towards their divorce, with the main trend being delaying reaching a settlement.

However, the stresses and strains of another unhappy Christmas takes it tolls on a number of people in relationships, who can no longer remain with their partner and need to instruct a Solicitor to help.  Going through a divorce or relationship breakdown is a very stressful time and it is important that a family Solicitor is instructed to take someone through the process, in relation to legal and also practical matters that arise.

It is important to be aware that there are a number of methods available to resolve the finances on the ending of a relationship including :-

DIY

Negotiating an agreement simply between the parties is often the cheapest and easiest way to do a settlement.  It can be done with or without professional support.  This option is not suitable for everyone but may work for couples who have agreed to divorce, who remain on good terms and communicate with each other well, and who trust each other sufficiently to agree on how to share money and property.  It may be better to take legal advice before choosing this option, to ensure that each party understands their own rights and the full implications of any agreements and decisions that they take.

Litigation

This is the most commonly used method.  To some people it is the most suitable option from the beginning; for others, it is the final option once other methods have been unsuccessful.  If no agreement can be reached through negotiation etc. then an application is sent to the Court.  The Court then issues a formal timetable of next steps.  Negotiations can continue along the Court process, which will steadily move to a conclusion unless the proceedings are withdrawn.  The Court process reaches what is called the final hearing.  The clients are bound by the decision of the Court.

Mediation

Mediation is a way of resolving disputes and difficult issues between separating couples.  Mediators can help with all the issues faced by separating couples, or can be chosen to simply deal with the specific issues.  Mediators are trained to help people resolve disputes.  The mediator will meet with the client and partner together and will identify those issues that they cannot agree on, and will try help the parties reach agreement.  Mediators are neutral and will not take sides.  They are not advisors and will not give advice to either party, and they often recommend that each party obtains legal advice along side the mediation process.  However, the mediators will provide broadly based legal information to both the parties if appropriate.  Once the proposals are acceptable, the mediator will prepare a summary of them together with a summary of financial information which will be sent to each client's lawyers.  If they are happy with it, the lawyers will then convert the summary into a Consent Order, to be approved by the Court.

Collaborative Approach

The Collaborative family law process is a relatively new way of dealing with family disputes.  Each person appoints their own lawyer but instead of conducting negotiations between the client and partner by letter or phone, the clients and respective lawyers all meet together to work things out face to face.  Each party will have their lawyer by their side throughout the process and so will have support and legal advice as they go.  Collaborative lawyers sign an agreement with clients that disqualifies us from representing clients in Court, if the Collaborative process breaks down.  This means that we are absolutely committed to helping clients find the best solutions by agreement, rather than through conflicts.  Sometimes only a couple of meetings are needed, on other occasions 4 or 5.  These meetings follow agendas set by the clients.  Once an agreement is reached, it can be put into effect and finalised into a Consent Order, approved by the Court.

It is important that the right approach is found for each client, as we are all different and different methods work for different people.  To obtain more information please contact Justine Osmotherley, Senior Associate, by email : j.osmotherley@clarionsolicitors.com or telephone 0113 3363323

Disclaimer: Anything posted on this blog is for general information only and is not intended to provide legal advice on any general or specific matter. Please refer to our terms and conditions for further information. Please contact the author of the blog if you would like to discuss the issues raised.