March 4, 2016

Routes to keep your divorce out of court

By Norman Taylor, consultant

A renewed row between judges over whether details of couples’ lives revealed at divorce hearings can be publicised reinforces how going to court precludes any guarantee of privacy.

Even though the public is usually barred from family courts, journalists can attend and report every minutia of the proceedings.

While the current debate centres on multi-million pound divorce settlements among high-profile couples whose private lives and wealth have been widely publicised, the splits of ‘ordinary’ people can also be considered noteworthy enough to be served up for public consumption.

This can happen for several reasons: a salacious element; perceived wealth; accusations of an attempt to hide offshore assets; or a link to a locally prominent business or individual. Such revelations might not only be embarrassing and distressing for the couple themselves, but also their children, parents, business partners and other ‘stakeholders’.

Many people still mistakenly believe that getting divorced entails going to court. However, there are three other routes to take when marriages break down.

Arbitration is a quicker, less emotionally and financially draining alternative to court battles. The press is barred from hearings, which are arranged at clients’ convenience, at comfortable venues, where a family arbitrator rules on who should have what. Just like a judge, the arbitrator bases their decision on relevant facts and evidence – taking into account the views of both parties. The award is final and binding on both parties.

Arbitrators are not only qualified in their field – they are also experienced family lawyers who are either former judges or family law barristers or solicitors. Jones Myers founder, Peter Jones, was one of the country’s first arbitrators when the process was introduced in 2012.

Mediation is also an effective and private way of resolving disputes without the need to go to court. It involves an independent third party – a mediator – who helps both sides come to an agreement. It is a highly effective method which can result in a swift resolution and save on legal expenses.

Couples often use mediation as a way to explore and discuss issues between them, with the assistance and guidance of an impartial mediator. Because many issues are resolved during mediation, they often find that they save a great deal in legal costs by opting for mediation first.

Collaboration sees couples each appoint their own collaboratively trained lawyer. They meet to work things out and are backed up by support and legal advice. All sign a contract committing them to trying to resolve matters by agreement, without going to court. The lawyers will agree only to represent the parties within the collaborative process and not in court. This ensures that everyone at the table, not just the divorcing spouses but also their legal representatives are committed to finding an out-of-court solution. Collaboration places an emphasis on a respectful and dignified resolution, putting any children at the heart of the process, and keeping the details private and confidential.

Divorcing couples who value their privacy are advised to consider these options which are also more cost effective, less traumatic and less prolonged than litigating.

Jones Myers has vast experience helping couples reach a constructive settlement to their differences, avoiding protracted arguments and promoting co-operation between them.

If you have any comments, queries or concerns on any divorce related issue, leave a comment below, call the Jones Myers team on 0113 246 0055 or tweet us on @helpwithdivorce.