The ‘round table’ way of working is an unusual method many law firms should be adopting, Georgie Hall, Prettys’ partner and head of private client speaks on how the work is necessary to stop stressful child dispute cases going to court and causing worry and anxiety for children and parents alike.
As well as bringing together both parents for a round table discussion sometimes it is necessary to bring in other experts, such as psychologists and counsellors.
This year has seen a seven per cent increase in child dispute applications being made to court, according to Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service.
With child dispute cases often ending up in court, we need to encourage families to sit down and talk through issues which ultimately can be much more productive.
Whilst the court process struggles to alter parental behaviour, the round table process looks to take a more practical and constructive approach.
Even if a court order is in place, it doesn’t mean the problems go away. It is up to the two people involved to do that, which is something we work on during round table discussions.
In some cases, the child may be including in the discussion with proper expert support. This depends on their understanding of the case and in our experience, this is generally considered to be after 11-12 years old.
What we look for is for parents to think in the same way in putting the child first, to find common ground and to agree on a process going forward.
One parent who referred herself and her teenage son for roundtable work, wanted to ensure her son’s voice could be heard. She said: “I felt in safe hands when I was at my most vulnerable and had previously found it hard to trust professionals.”
From issues surrounding where a child should live, to one-off cases involving holidays and schooling, child dispute cases can present themselves in a number of ways.
Communication is the key to resolving the problems and often, people falsely believe the legal process can deliver the undeliverable.
What can often be useful is to get the parents to open up a discussion to see which elements benefit from the legal framework and which most benefit from other non-lawyer children focussed experts.
Sometimes it’s just about making parents aware of the impact they are having on each other and their children. When this is brought to the surface it becomes more straightforward as people become more aware of their behaviour.
When a relationship breaks down it can cause deep divides and going to court won’t always solve this – it’s like putting a plaster on a festering wound. Round table way of working really helps break down barriers.
Georgie has headed the Family Law Department at Prettys from 2003 to 2019 and is now Head of Private Client which encompasses: Family; Estates, Wills and Trusts; Residential Conveyancing; and Personal Injury Team.
Georgie’s entire case load comes by way of recommendation, either from her own clients or other professionals.
Whilst Georgie covers all areas of relationship breakdown whether it be finances, children, pre or post-marriage clarification as to asset division, her hallmark is seen as the quality of client care provided.
Georgie specialises in dispute resolution alternate to court so works as a mediator and a collaborative solicitor; with the bulk of her case load dealt with resolution through negotiation and round table work.