Good Divorce Week 2016
Resolution (the national organisation of family Solicitors) is holding its annual awareness week from Monday 28th November this year. Rather than referring to it as a "dispute resolution" week as has happened in the past it has now been named "Good Divorce Week". It remains to be seen whether there can ever be a "good" divorce but the local Good Divorce Group is rather flattered by the national organisation using the expression which the Group used on its launch and conversion from the Norfolk Collaborative Law Group.
Resolution is using the opportunity to try to increase awareness to particular issues this year and looking for support in particular with a campaign directed at MPs. Those two issues are firstly seeking the introduction of "no fault" divorce and secondly seeking rights for cohabitees. With both Resolution are facing an uphill struggle as they have been advocated for many years without receiving national support or any legislation being introduced despite recommendations being made by the Law Commission and other countries having similar arrangements.
The Norfolk Good Divorce Group in conjunction with the local Resolution Group for Norfolk recently held a winter drinks reception at the Cathedral to help increase awareness of the alternatives open to those facing a relationship or marriage breakdown. The key aim of the Good Divorce Group has from its launch been to ensure that anyone in that situation was fully aware of the non-adversarial alternatives such as collaborative law, mediation and arbitration rather than a "blood on the wall" adversarial approach towards the issues arising from the ending of a relationship. This is particularly important where children are involved and great progress has been made locally with the way in which family lawyers deal with the situation and work together. This has changed radically since collaborative law was launched and the Good Divorce Group created as it brings together like minded lawyers that look for more constructive and creative solutions. They feel that the reality is that for the vast majority of people going through a relationship breakdown it is very emotional and difficult but they would still wish to try to find a solution that not only keeps legal costs to the minimum but also reduces the emotional upset and long-term problems for adults and children alike. This attitude has achieved momentum within the local family law community with support from other professionals such as financial advisers, accountants and surveyors.
Perhaps a "good" divorce is not the best description but more apt would be a "better" divorce!
Would you stay in a Divorce Hotel?
Some years ago the concept of a "Divorce Hotel" was started by a Dutch entrepreneur who has tried to create a system both in the Netherlands and America to assist couples going through a marriage breakdown. In this country it all went very quiet although the concept is now being raised again as a possibility for the UK. It is being publicised as "you check-in as a couple, spend a weekend with legal professionals and check-out divorced" although the divorce procedure is not as simple as that!
Jim Halfens is the man who has launched this. He has recently been interviewed on BBC Radio 5 about the concept. Whilst this may seem very alien to this country the concept of professionals joining together and looking at a positive solution is one that is central to Resolution and the Good Divorce Group. Whether we can expect to see a Divorce Hotel in Norfolk anytime soon is another question.
Divorce Court in Meltdown
With the reorganisation of Divorce Centres nationally attention has been focused locally on Bury St Edmunds which is the local Court that now deals with the issuing of all new Divorce Petitions for this area. The situation there has become a nightmare with huge delays. Lawyers have been reassured that steps are being taken to address these but it does seem that very little thought was given to the huge amount of work that was to be given to a small Court that was initially very understaffed and unable to cope.
The repercussions go beyond just delays. Additional work is having to be done by lawyers who are also having to fend off clients being very dissatisfied and wanting to know whether they can be compensated in some way because of the system failing. The lawyers dealing with the Court have found it very difficult to placate irate clients that in many cases believe it is the lawyers that are at fault for the delay.
Longer term the direction of the Government still seems to be to encourage "on-line divorce" and at the moment more junior non-judicial staff are dealing with divorces that are straightforward. We can expect to see more of this happening with Judges being less and less involved with actual divorces but sadly at the same time being more and more involved with disputes over children and finances in situations where husbands and wives are often acting in person due to the lack of legal aid and not being able to afford legal fees.
The family law landscape has now changed forever and we have not seen the end of it!
Neale Grearson Head of Family Department
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