Family Dispute Resolution: #ChildrenFirst

Today marks the last day of National Family Dispute Resolution week 2015 as led by the family lawyers’ group – Resolution.

Dispute resolution (DR) put simply refers to various different approaches to disagreements that offer a range of alternative options to the commonly referred “day in court.” Litigation is not always the best approach to family disputes and Dispute Resolution offers constructive, consensual and even creative methods to reaching an agreement or resolving a problem.

DR week has presented an opportunity to consider the range of approaches available when disagreements and arguments take place within the family. These approaches often allow and encourage a more pragmatic line to be taken in making arrangements or reaching an agreement, rather than relying entirely upon the court system.

Inevitably, sometimes life takes over and arguments happen. Whether it is for a separating couple, disagreements about arrangements for children, or a problem with resolving a financial dispute, there are alternative avenues worth exploring. These may prove to be significantly time-saving, cost-saving and perhaps most importantly argument-saving, as opposed to court focused litigation.

The focus of Resolution’s themed DR week has been #ChildrenFirst.

It is in saving arguments and approaching matters using a form of Dispute Resolution that a long-term benefit may be realised as children’s interests should be the number one priority. All too often children suffer unnecessarily due to parental conflict, in which they may play no part and have no say.

Through Dispute Resolution children should find they are in a position where they are protected from potential suffering caused by a damaging family environment as disagreement, argument and conflict echo throughout the family home. Children’s welfare and interests should be the paramount consideration in any dispute.

Recent research has shown that children do not suffer most through the act of parental separation, and instead long-term suffering is actually caused through exposure to parental conflict during this time. In fact figures indicate that approximately 80% of children would prefer their parents to separate rather than allow their situation to create a prolonged, unpleasant and miserable home life and living environment.

Types of Dispute Resolution

Mediation is perhaps the most common form of Dispute Resolution. Given recent changes in government legislation, mediation must now be explored as an option if it is deemed appropriate in a family dispute.

In mediation a couple have an opportunity to discuss their disagreements, to consider their priorities and to negotiate how best to resolve problems with open lines of communication. An independent mediator is used to facilitate these discussions, and though they may not offer legal advice, couples may be encouraged to take such advice throughout the process.

Mediation is frequently used in resolving both children and financial matters; statistics indicate that it can be very effective.

Collaborative law adopts an approach where both parties agree from the outset of attempting to resolve their dispute that they will not go to court. The parties then try to reach an agreement with the other through openly discussing their problems around a table with their collaborative lawyers and exploring how best to reach an agreement. Each party requires advice from a lawyer with collaborative training in order to use the process. Other professionals may also become involved as the process adapts to situations as they arise, examples may include: financial advisers, business experts, and counselling services, etc.

The advantages include flexibility as there are a wide range of options in terms of reaching an agreement through the collaborative process. This also ensures that a judge, whom may only look at the relevant details briefly in one day, will not be making the final decision. The parties, and any children, can be assured that an agreement will be focused upon their interests and made on their terms.

At Macks we understand that a decision to separate does not necessarily need to lead to a court battle and that for most couples family ties remain important even after separation.

If you would like more information about alternative forms of Dispute Resolution including mediation and collaborative law, please contact us today.

Please also visit www.resolution.org.uk/divorceandparenting for Resolution’s online advice guide for divorcing parents.


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