If you’ve made the decision to separate, you may be feeling a bit overwhelmed about what to do next. This is totally understandable – it’s a huge decision, and there are so many logistics to consider, but you don’t have to go it alone.
The first step is to find an experienced solicitor to talk over your options. Going to court is not the be-all-and-end-all of divorce – there are a variety of alternatives that cost less, are more flexible, and allow you to work collaboratively with your ex.
Under current UK family law legislation, there is, unfortunately, no option for divorce without blame, but there are ways to approach separation that help to minimise animosity and help to reduce the duration, cost, and stress of the process.
Below you’ll find the main options available, though you may end up using a mix of different approaches – in all cases, consult with your solicitor before making any decisions, and use their advice to help you decide on the best course of action for your unique situation.
If you feel able to work things out co-operatively with your ex – try mediation
Mediation is a good first step for couples seeking separation as it offers a more informal approach to begin to think about how you’re going to divide up assets, arrange children’s issues, and come to a final decision.
A mediator is there to offer guidance and to bring you and your ex together to come to an agreement. Mediators do not take sides, nor are they couples counsellors – their role is an objective and supportive intermediary who works with you as a couple to help you both find a mutually-beneficial outcome.
If you choose to pursue mediation as a form of separation, once you’ve come to a decision, your mediator will draw up a legally binding memorandum of understanding which sets out the details of your agreement and may include financial negotiations, a co-parenting plan for the future, and how you plan to resolve living arrangements. You can then take your memorandum to your own legal representatives if there are any further legal processes to complete.
If you have children – try collaborative family law
Collaborative family law is centred around cooperation, and is particularly suited to separating parents whose first priority is their children’s well-being. Working together with your ex may be challenging, but by choosing a less adversarial and solution-oriented approach you may find it easier to co-parent in the future, knowing that you made decisions together for the good of your family.
Working with a solicitor trained in collaborative family law can help you to focus on what’s most important – your children’s future – and come to positive agreements about living arrangements, financial issues, childcare, maintenance and dividing up time with your children. Like mediation, this cooperative approach is, in most cases, cheaper, faster, and less strenuous on relationships than going to court – in addition, you remain in control of decisions concerning your children, rather than allowing the family courts to make decisions for you.
If you want to keep your affairs private and/or need to negotiate financial issues – try arbitration
If you’re looking for an efficient and amicable method of resolving issues related to separation – for example sorting out financial negotiations, dividing up assets, or dealing with a co-owned business – arbitration is an effective, flexible, and private alternative.
Arbitration offers a simplified method of dispute resolution and provides a legally-binding solution without the need to go to court. If you choose arbitration, you’ll be able to appoint your choice of arbitrator and set the pace and duration of the process, allowing you to fit appointments around existing responsibilities and budget accordingly.
Unlike mediation or collaborative family law, however, arbitration enables you to request that your arbitrator make decisions about individual issues on your behalf based on your circumstances. This can, in some cases, take the stress out of coming to a collaborative decision when emotions are running high.
If you feel unable to discuss things with your ex or have complex legal issues to resolve – speak to your solicitor about court divorce
Sometimes it’s not possible to sit down and discuss your situation calmly and objectively with your ex. And sometimes it’s difficult to come to a mutually-beneficial agreement without seeking further legal help. If your case needs to go to court, an experienced solicitor will help you to understand and negotiate each step of the way, whether you’re disputing finances, asset distribution, children’s issues, or whatever challenges arise through the separation process.
If you’re worried about budgeting for separation – try fixed fee legal services
Whatever approach you choose, knowing how much you need to budget for separation can help to take away some of the uncertainty. Fixed-fee legal services allow you to prepare for every step of the process so you don’t need to worry about unexpected fees. Fixed-fee family law services can be arranged for mediation, arbitration, and many other legal processes – ask your solicitor for more information.
Choosing the right approach for you
In all cases, your first port of call should be seeking advice from an experienced, down-to-earth solicitor who can help you to decide on the best course of action for your unique and individual circumstances. Speak to our friendly family law team at Frances Lindsay & Co for more information on mediation, collaborative family law, arbitration, divorce, and fixed-fee legal services. We’re here to take the weight off your shoulders, with offices in Beaconsfield and Maidenhead, and services across Berkshire and Buckinghamshire.arbitration, collaborative family law, divorce, divorce without blame, mediation, no fault divorce, separation