1 in 5 couples contemplate separation

Josie Hayes web

By Josephine Hayes

The BBC recently reported that over 2.8 million people in England, almost one in every five couples, are in distressed relationships which counsellors consider ‘clinically significant’. Constant bickering is said to have a far reaching impact on children.

Many couples remain living in unhappy relationships due to fears over their financial circumstances or concern about the impact on their children. However, the recent research indicates that it is the conflict in relationships that is most damaging to children and there is no evidence that separation causes any inevitable harm to children. It may be better for everyone concerned to instigate an amicable separation. Of course the change of circumstances will be difficult for the family but it is likely to be better than living in an unhappy, conflicted relationship.

The best way of dealing with your separation will vary from case to case, but it is accepted that if you can remain on amicable terms with your ex-partner and keep conflict to a minimum then any arrangements are more likely to last. Once you have made the decision to separate there are various options available:

Direct Negotiation – Once you have taken advice and know your options you can discuss and negotiate a settlement between yourselves. This is the quickest and cheapest way of reaching an agreement but it is important that you understand your legal rights and then take steps to ensure that the agreement is legally binding.

Solicitor Negotiation – Both parties appoint separate solicitors who will give advice, collate information and negotiate an agreement on your behalf. Negotiations can take place by telephone, letter or at round table meetings depending on what suits you and your family.

Mediation – An independent mediator will meet with you both and assist you to discuss the issues arising from your separation and help you to agree a way forward. Legal advice should be taken in conjunction with mediation to ensure that any agreement is fair and legally binding.

Collaborative Law – You both appoint trained collaborative lawyers and discuss all of the issues at round table meetings with your solicitors in attendance. This is a private way of resolving your dispute without going to court. Both parties commit to the negotiations and your solicitor will not be able to represent you at court if you cannot agree.

Arbitration – Family arbitration is a form of private court process with the added advantage of speed, flexibility and confidentiality. Both parties appoint lawyers and an expert arbitrator who will act as your judge. The arbitrator will make an “award” at the end of the matter which is similar to a court judgement.

Court – If there is no other way of resolving the dispute then court proceedings may become necessary. You can represent yourself or instruct solicitors to represent you at court. Ultimately a judge would make a decision about your case and impose an order on you. You are required to attend a meeting about mediation before issuing court proceedings. Court proceedings can take many months to resolve and are expensive; they should always be a last resort.

Whichever method you choose it is important that you know your legal rights. Seeking advice early can help you to understand the options and decide what best suits you and your family. At Barker Gotelee we offer a free initial consultation for anyone who is experiencing relationship breakdown, wishes to consider separation or divorce and who needs some help and advice.

Josephine Hayes is a solicitor in the Family department at Barker Gotelee Solicitors.

Suffolk Family Solicitors – for more information on our range of legal services, please call the team on 01473 611211 or email bg@barkergotelee.co.uk