April 18, 2014

Are off the shelf divorces past their sell by dates?

The departure of Christina Blacklaws, director of the Co-ops Legal Services, once again highlights the issue – will people really go to the supermarket to buy a divorce?

Ms Blacklaws’ appointment came about after the troubled organisation set up a family law practice when it was decreed that businesses, including banks and supermarkets, could be licensed to offer legal services.

I have always had my doubts about this and whilst Ms Blacklaws remains tight-lipped about her reasons for leaving the service she spearheaded, how likely is it that anyone will seriously look to ‘purchase’ a divorce while doing the weekly shop?

The legal shake-up that heralded the Co-op’s family law service – and ironically dubbed the Tesco law – adopted an IT conveyor belt approach with the size and sheer volume of cases keeping prices down.

A cheap divorce can seem tempting – particularly as many families throughout the UK have had to tighten their belts and cut costs.  However, as the old adage goes, “you get what you pay for”.

The pile them high, sell them cheap approach may work for baked beans, but can it really be the answer for couples who find that their marriage has fallen apart? Complex financial issues, disagreements about where children will live and pension arrangements will all require a more tailored and measured solution.

Our own clients come to us because they want a bespoke service and to talk to an expert who will listen and offer solutions that work for their particular situation.  A solicitor who is a member of Resolution, the organisation for family lawyers committed to non-confrontational approaches to divorce, is very much alive to the needs of an individual client – not taking a ‘one size fits all approach’.

And new legislation coming into force on April 22 will add a new layer of complexity to divorce as it brings sweeping changes to the family law system.  As experienced family lawyers we are examining the finer details of the new bill and the implications for couples embarking on separation and divorce.

We have written several blogs about the Children and Families Act. Among the changes to the law is the creation of one single family court, Child Arrangement Orders to replace residency and contact orders and the introduction of compulsory Mediation Information Assessment Meetings (MIAMs).

With the demise of legal aid for most family law matters, we know how important it is for people to keep down the cost of divorce – and an ‘off the shelf’ option may seem tempting.  However, any good family lawyer will work with the client to manage costs and direct him or her to the most appropriate divorce option – whether mediation, collaboration, arbitration or simply good old-fashioned negotiation.

If you have any questions about the Children’s and Families Bill please call us on 0113 246 0055, leave us a comment below or drop us an e-mail.

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