Fact Sheet - Separation Options
Q I am thinking of leaving my partner. We have children and finances that we need to sort out. Do we have to end up in a court?
A – No. There are various options including trying to resolve things between yourselves amicably, Mediation, Collaborative law and traditional negotiation involving solicitors.
Q – I’m not sure I can talk this through with my partner on my own. What does Mediation involve?
A – Mediation is a way to sort out the issues around your separation with a trained, independent third party who does not act for either of you in the way a solicitor might. Anything is capable of being mediated including where and with whom children will live, how often they will see the other parent and even seeing extended family members. Property and all financial issues can be mediated, including who will be responsible for debts. Mediation can be used by those who are married, in a civil partnership, who are living together or already separated.
Q- Do I have to be in the same room as my former partner?
A – A mediator will offer an initial session for individuals to discuss how the process will work, obtain information about the issues to be mediated, check to see if you qualify for public funding (legal aid) for the cost and see if you feel able to undertake the sessions jointly. If you can’t, some mediators offer shuttle mediation which is where you and your partner are in separate rooms.
Q – If we reach an agreement, what happens?
A – The mediator will, with both parties permission, summarise the proposals that have been exchanged, any financial information that has been shared and draw up a Memorandum of Understanding, setting out the terms that have been agreed. You should then seek independent legal advice and subject to that, if need be, the agreement can be presented to a Court to put into what is known as a consent order often without having to attend court.
Q- Can I mediate with my solicitor present?
A – No, but you can use the Collaborative law process. Collaborative solicitors are committed to helping you reach an agreement without a court case. Rather than write letters, they will arrange face to face meetings that you and they attend with your former partner and their solicitor. All parties sign an agreement not to go to Court and if the collaborative process breaks down, the solicitors can no longer represent either you or your partner. If an agreement is reached, it can be drawn up in the same way as a mediator would do so. If you try this route, your solicitor must be specially trained in Collaborative law.
Q – I don’t feel able to meet with my former partner, even with my solicitor. What then?
A – This is when traditional negotiations take place mainly in letter form between solicitors. It is vital that when choosing a solicitor that you check they are experts in the area that you need advice on and their firm has a recognised Best Quality mark such as Lexcel. Make sure they are accredited experts by the Law Society and are members of their Advanced Family Law, Children, Finances or Domestic Violence Panels and have a great deal of experience in resolving disputes without court proceedings.
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