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Jo O'Sullivan

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The Good Divorce Week is laudable but....

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The Good Divorce Week is laudable but shouldn’t it be ‘don’t make it worse’ every day for our separating and divorcing clients?

Resolution, an organisation for family law professionals, of which I am a committed and active member run a Good Divorce Week each year.   You will see from my website that I try to offer the ‘good divorce’.  I’d love it if we could run a ‘don’t make it worse’ every week and every day for my fellow professionals and potential clients.  Do you think we could?  I’m an optimist.  Why shouldn’t we change the narrative, behaviour and outcomes for couples to be positive (or as positive as is possible)? 

You may not know it but solicitors and other family law professionals are guided by 2 codes. Resolution's Code of Practice and The Law Society Family Law Protocol (which sadly is not available free online).

I applaud the work of Claire Molyneux with her Voluntary charter for solicitors helping parents to make post-separation and I hope it gains traction.

So, in theory at least, all should be well. But often that’s not what I see. I am not perfect, by any measure, but I do try to abide by the following:

  1. Don’t write nasty letters/emails.  I’ve have received letters calling my clients ‘a liar’, a ‘fantasist’, ‘lazy’ – well the list goes on. The solicitor writes that they are ‘disappointed’ ‘upset’ and ‘annoyed’.  I am not sure what it is hoped such letters/emails will achieve. All it does is invite the other lawyer or litigant in person to respond strongly and likely just as aggressively.  Most often, even if the case ends up at court, these letters are never seen.

              Or hey my big idea would be to not write letters or emails at all. See 4 below.

  1. Maybe don’t do anything at all. Take no legal steps. If not urgent or necessary instead refer to a family consultant or someone who can calm things down. Help with communication and bring things to a new normality.
  2. Ask parents to complete the Our Family in Two Homes workbook so they can focus on the future and how it might look.
  3. Encourage couples to use all the options available to them to avoid court – and there are a huge number to choose from:
  • Mediation
  • Hybrid mediation
  • Child Inclusive mediation
  • Collaborative Practice 
  • Round table
  • Arbitration (with hearings)
  • Arbitration (on the papers only)
  • Early Neutral Evaluation (when an expert tells you what to expect from a court)
  • Private FDR
  • Arb-Med

It might be appropriate to use some of these, not just one. All efforts need to be exhausted before court action is taken.

So how about it?  A better experience all around.

Ps – it’s a better experience for the lawyers too.