It may not be easy but I've seen very tricky issues resolved using the methods I advocate...
‘Timing is everything’ as they say. How does timing play a part in separation and divorce?
I am very pleased to welcome Kim Crewe who is a family consultant and someone I have worked with over many years.
During Covid19’s (first) lockdown my clients engaging in mediation and collaborative processes were able to simply PAUSE. They said to me that they wanted to wait and see what happened with the pandemic and the economy before moving forward. This seemed very sensible to me as there wasn’t a housing market to speak of and the stock market was crashing.
However, clients that were in court had to carry on as if nothing was happening. The courts were (and still are) a disaster area. With delays, last minute postponements, telephone hearings and a hotch potch of virtual hearings taking place. The President of the Family Division is now really (to be fair he always was) encouraging clients and lawyers to, in the first instance, consider non court options including Arbitration, Private FDRs, mediation and Collaborative practice. See his full statement here:
So, my message is (where possible) avoid the family court.
Court aside, I often think that when using mediation and other non-court processes timing really is everything. Kim, what’s your experience of timing and separation and divorce?
I think timing is really important and I encourage people who are in the EARLY stages of thinking about separating to come and meet me to have a discussion about their future plans. This enables them to think, for example, how, what and when to tell the children they are separating, what might be the arrangements for each parent spending time with the children. For couples who don’t have children they might talk about future living arrangements. Sometimes couples find that communication can be challenging during this time of change so ensuring conversation stays thoughtful and respectful is really important.
Time to think…. Separation and divorce can be stressful and anxiety provoking. During this time, it can be hard to think, so taking time to yourself to think about what you want, who you want to support you and how you see your new future. We need to get off that hamster wheel and find a quiet space in which important thoughts emerge.
Jo, do you find it helpful when clients contact you early on?
Absolutely. When people are in the early stages of considering separation or when they have just heard the news from their partner is a good idea. Then I can talk to them about non court and non-traditional processes that seek to minimise acrimony and facilitate sensible solutions. I am of course talking about using collaborative and mediation processes. Just anything that doesn’t involve lawyers writing ‘legal’ letters to each other!
My experience is that clients who seek help from a family consultant in the very early stages and continue to do so throughout the case and after the legal work is done. More importantly perhaps the legal costs are almost always cheaper.
What kind of work can you do with individuals or couples to help them sort out the emotions following the news that a separation or divorce is imminent?
Kim: People respond really differently emotionally to separation or divorce, this will depend on; whose idea it was, their own family background, whether there was an affair or other betrayal, if they have children. I offer them a space in which to talk and process their feelings. Separation or divorce is often compared to a bereavement whereby people go through the 5 stages of grief as written about by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross.
• Denial – this helps to minimise the pain of loss as it is processed
• Anger – this is when there is a great emotional discomfort, often underneath the anger is great sadness
• Bargaining – this can come in a variety of promises, “I will change” “Give me another chance”
• Depression - emotions have now calmed down and people begin to look at the reality of their situation.
• Acceptance – no longer feeling the pain, an acceptance that the separation or divorce is going to happen.
It is important to understand that these stages are not the same for everyone and people can jump from one stage to another and back again, all in one day!
My task as a family consultant is to create a safe space where people can come and talk about whatever they are feeling but also help them come to terms with their new situation. Family consultancy is different to therapy and as a family consultant I support them to move forward, I may offer strategies for helping them to cope with their emotions and also the feelings of their children if they have them.
Some people find it helpful to come to meetings with their ex-partner and I will work with them to help them to minimise any conflict that may arise, improve communication and reduce any misunderstandings. If they have children, they may want to do a parenting plan to help them to make workable arrangements for their children.
Does it make a difference to your work with your clients when they are working with a family consultant?
Jo: It makes a huge positive difference to my work if clients engage with a family consultant. The legal processes can wait while the couple ‘catch up’ with each other (although take specific advice in your case). If one has ended the relationship, they are ready to get on with the legal process but the other maybe is not. So, I often say to the ‘leaver’ in the relationship to give things time, to let the other person in the couple catch up. That they work with a family consultant sort this kind of thing. If one is impatient and simply issues an application at court, to try and hurry things along, this rarely works. The person playing catch up may not comply or make things legally difficult e.g. defending the divorce. This is very costly for both clients, emotionally and financially.
Timing the legal work that is necessary is essential. If it’s too quick because emotionally one or both parties aren’t ready, that costs money. But if things are left for too long, it can have an effect on the overall outcome. But usually a gentler approach to timing pays dividends and working with a family consultant is a boon for the couples longer term happiness, the relationship with their children (if they have them) and for the legal process.
Working with a family consultant early, often and even after the legal process is essential for the cheapest, most amicable divorce or separation possible.
If you’d like to work with Kim Crewe here are her contact details: