At the beginning of 2022, it was predicted that divorce rates could surge by more than 50% in the UK. The impact of pandemic lockdowns, pressures due to the cost of living increases and changes in legislation such as the no-fault divorce, could all be contributing factors to this.
A top judge has recently raised the issue that around one-fifth of divorces are wrongly ending up in court, which results in a lengthy legal process that could be harmful for those involved. Here, we discuss how the courts can be avoided when obtaining a divorce.
Going to court can be a grizzly affair that can leave both parties worse off than if they avoided it altogether. And contrary to what might seem typical, there are other, better ways to facilitate separation from a spouse than by ending up in the courtroom. Here are some top tips to avoiding the courts during divorce proceedings:
Explore the other options open to you
Family mediation has the aim of encouraging separating couples to sit down together, work out solutions to the financial and/or children-based issues that can arise as part of a divorce, and reach an amicable agreement that suits both parties.
Other processes that can be used to avoid court are collaborative law, where each party selects a specialist family solicitor and engages in a series of four-way meetings to try to reach an agreement. Another process is arbitration, which involves the couple agreeing to put their case to an arbitrator who is appointed to settle the matters in dispute, much like a judge.
There are a number of advantages to pursuing alternative dispute resolution methods and keeping matters out of court. Firstly, it can help all members of the family unit – including, most importantly, the children – move on to the next stage of their lives more quickly. Secondly, it is not as adversarial as court processes can be, meaning it’s more likely that the parties will be able to maintain important family relationships after the divorce is concluded.
Communication is key
It is normal to feel intense emotions when going through a divorce, but it is important to try and keep these out of the proceedings. Clear communication throughout helps to ensure court can be avoided in order to reach an amicable and swift separation agreement.
Shortening the process also means there’s less time and opportunities for unpleasant feelings to develop and grow, making it easier to move on from the divorce and keep a level of civility which is particularly important for any dependents..
It’s important to understand that by avoiding court, it is the parties who achieve their own settlement. As such, this offers couples peace of mind that, from the very beginning of the process to the conclusion, they are in charge and retain an element of control over the outcome.
However, it is also important for the client to have realistic expectations of what they are entitled to during divorce proceedings, to ensure a swifter agreement is reached, without needing to take it to court. If you are unsure of what to expect, it can be a good idea to talk to a legal professional before the divorce proceedings or any financial negotiations start.
Ultimately, avoiding litigation can help to settle differences without the hostility that can be brought about by court proceedings, which is especially important if there are children involved, as well as providing a quicker process to help the couple move forward with their lives.
Lisa-Marie is a Partner and Solicitor. She qualified as a Solicitor in 2003, was part of the Nelsons’ expert Family Law team from 2010 to 2016 and rejoined the team in December 2020.
Lisa-Marie specialises in family law and advises on divorce and financial settlements which involve complex issues and substantial assets. She also advises on pre and postnuptial agreements, separation agreements and cohabitation agreements along with private law Children Act disputes. Lisa-Marie is a qualified collaborative practitioner.