The Changes of Family Law
For couples facing the end of their marriage, there are now several different alternatives to divorcing through the courts. Contrary to popular belief, divorce rarely requires going to court and the latest options for divorce are designed to address the legal consequences of separation in a more amicable and constructive way.
Developed in an effort to counteract the spiralling numbers of acrimonious battles in the divorce courts, new approaches to divorce such as collaborative family law, family mediation and family arbitration are becoming increasingly popular. The negative effect that divorce has upon children is now widely understood and these alternatives to the courts offer separating couples the opportunity to work out their differences amicably, therefore helping to protect their children from some of the more stressful aspects of divorce.
Most family law experts now agree that the majority of issues that need to be resolved during divorce can be addressed outside the courts in a more informal, amicable environment. Courtrooms do have a reputation for bringing out the worst in people; relaxed, non-confrontational communication tends to be difficult and even small issues can quickly spiral out of control. Family mediation and collaborative family law provide couples with the time and space to negotiate settlements with each other in a relaxed atmosphere, giving them control over the pace of negotiations and the final outcome.
Collaborative family law and family mediation also provide a level of privacy that is often sorely lacking in the divorce courts; couples can negotiate resolutions with their ex-partner through their family lawyers in face-to-face meetings, whilst still maintaining an amicable relationship. When divorce is handled in this way the whole family benefits – from the couple themselves who have the opportunity to reach agreements that feel fair to both of them, through to their children who are offered the security of reassurance of having parents who have amicably resolved their issues.
Family arbitration offers a kind of halfway house; used as way of reaching difficult decisions about property or family finances, arbitration provides an alternative to asking a judge to make the decisions. Both sides must agree to arbitration and arbitration is used in cases where a couple are unable to sort things out between themselves or through another form of dispute resolution, such as family mediation. As in a ‘court-based’ divorce, an arbitrator will gather together all the facts of the case – as a judge would – taking into account the views of both sides. Once the information gathering stage has been completed, the arbitrator will issue a binding ruling, often referred to as an ‘award.’
Family law now offers couples a wide range of opportunities to avoid the conflicts, negativity and the disagreements that were once associated with divorce proceedings. Of course these alternatives aren’t appropriate in all divorce cases, especially those where there is a history of abuse of domestic violence, however they are helping thousands of couples protect their family relationships whilst securing long-lasting, amicable agreements.