“Help! I’m getting divorced. Do I need a family lawyer? A family mediator? A Collaborative Family Lawyer?
I need to understand about family law – where should I go first?”
When you split up there’s a plethora of options which can be bewildering. Everyone has an opinion – and wants you to use their services and preferably not services they do not offer. This is your life and your choice and decisions you take about where to go first for help can shape the route you take to resolution. It therefore makes sense to explore the fastest and most cost effective route to resolution first, as you may not need to spend more time and money on more time-consuming and expensive resolution options.
At Focus there will be an assessment meeting either together or apart as you prefer. We will listen to your situation and work out with you the issues to be resolved and check if you get legal aid. We can explain about other resolution options and indeed, two Focus mediators are able to offer Collaborative Family Law as well as mediation, if you prefer that. Most of our mediators are lawyer mediators, and your case will be dealt with by the mediator with the right back-ground and experience to ensure you receive good quality legal information and the right help.
Court proceedings – you pay your own lawyers for a long process or act in person; usually takes about a year (property and finance) or less if about children. You become opponents in an adversarial fight, which often makes matters worse and often costs more than the monetary difference between you. It usually makes sense to avoid court if you can but it is ideal for getting a time-table for resolution, forcing a recalcitrant party to participate and disclose information and document and for some people is the only realistic option
Lawyer led negotiations – you pay your lawyers to complete disclosure and negotiate the best deal they can for you; this will again be adversarial (see above) and if you have round table negotiations, if these fail then you are left with the court option to resolve matters – unless you mediate
Collaborative Family Law – you are each represented by your owned specially trained collaborative family lawyer and you and they sign a participation agreement dis-barring the lawyers from acting for you if the process breaks down and you go to court, this holds everyone in the process until you resolve the settlement, but if it does break-down, it is expensive (mostly they succeed).
Mediation – you can mediate at any stage in your family settlement, though the earlier you both engage in mediation the higher the potential savings in the costs of other processes. However, sometimes one party has no interest in mediating for example because they are sitting on all the assets or have the children. In those circumstances sometimes court proceedings may be needed to get them to the mediation table with a realistic attitude. It is never too early or too late to mediate – especially if you are stuck in seemingly endless dispute over everything that is costing a lot and making life hard for you. This because very often the dispute may be about the feelings and belief that drive disputes and not just about the apparent legal narrative that is being discussed between lawyers and at court. Mediation is the only way to address these important aspects of your situation and it can unlock arrangements that a court adjudicated outcome has no way of imposing. It is often these tailored arrangements that make the most difference to people and the way they feel about their settlement.