I am separating from my partner. Will I have to go to court to resolve things for the children? What are the other options?

NGA_Stock_261Separating is always tough, particularly where there are children involved. You will need to work through who the children will live with and what time they will spend with the other parent, as well as deciding upon issues around decision-making and parental responsibility. As any good family lawyer will tell you, it is better for the family as a whole for a solution to be reached amicably, and wherever possible to avoid court.

Lawyers are there to help you, not just with court proceedings, but with reaching agreement and if needed to take legal steps to formalise things (something which can be particularly important for some same-sex parents and others who may not have secure parental status in law). As members of Resolution our legal team are committed to the constructive resolution of family disputes.

Court proceedings are there as a last resort, but for most parents arrangements are resolved in other ways, including:

  • Agreement between yourselves

Often sitting down together and talking things through can be the best way to reach an agreement – you ultimately know one another and your children better than anyone else. There is no need for a court order if you can agree arrangements between you. In some cases, particularly involving same-sex parents and some parents who have conceived through assisted reproduction, there may also be steps you wish to take to secure the status or parental responsibility of a parent who is not on the birth certificate, and although this may involve a legal process it can be done amicably.

  • Agreement with help from solicitors

Solicitors are not just there to make court applications. Most of the work of a family lawyer often involves helping you to reach agreement by advising you on what a court would be likely to order if you can’t agree, helping you to narrow issues and supporting or representing you in discussions with your former partner. Solicitors can also help you take steps to implement what you have agreed if that is needed.

  • Mediation

Mediation is a more formal process in which a mediator (who is an independent, trained individual) helps facilitate the process of reaching an agreement. A mediator will not advise either of you, but will help manage and steer your discussions to help you find your own solution which you are both happy with. Sometimes mediation happens during the course of court proceedings, and it can help to narrow the issues even if complete agreement is not reached about everything.

  • Collaborative family law

Collaborative family law is a process in which you and your partner work together with the support of your solicitors to reach a solution. Discussions take place round a table and there is a mutual agreement not to go to court. If negotiations break down then both solicitors involved must step away and you must start again which helps motivate everyone involved to make a positive effort to reach agreement. Other experts can also be called in to assist, and the support of child experts, life coaches, IFA’s and counsellors can be useful.

  • Arbitration

Arbitration, when used in a family law context, means that you and your partner jointly decide upon an arbitrator who will be tasked with making a decision in relation to your case. This decision will be final and binding. The benefits include being able to choose your arbitrator and a confidential, quicker and more flexible process than court proceedings.

This is simply an overview of some of the options which may be available to help you resolve issues for your family, in addition to or alongside court proceedings. In practice, we can advise you on the best way forward in your particular circumstances, and if you have any questions about this please do get in touch on 020 3701 5915 or hello@ngalaw.co.uk.

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