The delay, expense and hostility involved in court divorce is leading many couples to choose family mediation as an alternative way to divorce. Using mediation, spouses can work towards a separation agreement fairly swiftly but in order for this agreement to be binding, both parties must have a lawyer advising them. Although it may seem to go against the idea of ‘mediation’ to instruct a lawyer from the outset, it is very sensible to do so and in the interests of both parties.
There can sometimes be advantages in instructing a lawyer before the family mediation process has started. Sadly, many people mistakenly assume that instructing a lawyer before the process starts will make it more difficult to reach an agreement swiftly and harmoniously because of the pressure they’ll place on the client to push for more favourable outcomes. In reality, this is not the case with good family lawyers, who are committed to helping clients reach fair outcomes with minimal stress and disruption.
The first advantage of instructing a family law expert early on is that they can advise you on how the law applies in your case. Whilst this may sound obvious, it is important not to underestimate how complex family law has become and how difficult it can be to start the process without knowing exactly where you stand. Receiving this advice early on means that you can understand and prepare yourself for the full range of possible outcomes from mediation. It is important that parties have realistic expectations before the process begins so that talks do not break down later on. If such talks break down, the case may end up in court which defeats the object of mediation completely.
Your lawyer will also be able to offer you expert legal advice on the settlement, not simply with regards to whether or not the terms are in your interests but whether or not the settlement itself satisfies all legal requirements. There is no point going through the whole mediation process only to end up with a settlement which is not enforceable.
Another reason to ensure that you instruct an expert family lawyer early on is to make sure that you making reasonable demands in the discussions. It can be difficult to take a measured approach to discussions considering all of the emotions involved in the separation; however, having an expert family lawyer in your corner can make it easier to deal with the formalities and practicalities involved. Indeed, having a professional rather than a friend there for support can be beneficial because they are emotionally detached from the process. Whilst you want your lawyer to be supportive, you want them to remain professional and that means that they need to be pragmatic and fair.
Bearing in mind all of the advantages mentioned above, it is a good idea to instruct a family lawyer before the mediation process starts. Instructing one afterwards could lead to all of the problems you tried to avoid in the first place, so the sensible option is to secure the right professional advice at the earliest opportunity.
Tim Bishop is senior partner of law firm Bonallack and Bishop – Salisbury family mediators and collaborative lawyers. For expert help with your divorce, call them on [Salisbury] 01722 422300 or for more information about how family mediation could help you, visit their specialist Vision Mediation website at http://familymediationcollaborativelaw.co.uk.