When it comes to divorce, time and cost are the two issues most commonly queried by clients.
Time is the major factor which determines the cost, and unfortunately, divorces are taking longer.
The Government website for Family Court statistics show that in the period of January to March 2023 the mean average time from application to conditional order (the point where the Court has decided couples are eligible to divorce) was 38 weeks. This is an increase of 12 weeks from the same period in 2022.
The mean average time from application to final order (that point at which the divorce has officially dissolved) was 64 weeks an increase of 7.5 weeks from the same period in 2022.
While there are many variables that might affect the increase in time taken for a divorce to finalise, ultimately these statistics clearly show there is dangerous trend that needs to be stopped.
The cause for the majority of wasted time spent in divorce, is obvious. When parties are drawn into a battle and disagree over how their matrimonial finances are to be split, they refuse to compromise. When this situation arises, the only way to break the deadlock is to begin Court proceedings. The Court process is slow and time consuming for all involved.
Mediation, a form of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) has long been seen as the solution. When it comes to divorce and dealing with matrimonial finances, mediation is a compulsory step that must be taken before the Court can be asked to decide on a case.
Our belief, however, is that guidance should be given to discourage the concept that mediation is a compulsory step or just a ‘tick in the box’. Otherwise, there is the danger that clients misunderstand the nuance and the effectiveness of the activity.
If client’s receive early advice in the divorce process and they are guided to attend the correct type of ADR suited to the circumstances; the Court’s involvement can be negated and the time taken to achieve an outcome, can be significantly reduced.
Mediation, instructing a third-party to encourage the parties to find common ground and to compromise is just one form of ADR. There is also Arbitration or simply roundtable meetings with solicitors. Arbitration is essentially a mimic hearing, where a Barrister or a retired Judge is asked to preside over the case. Roundtable meetings are similar to mediation; however, the parties’ solicitors are asked to manage the meeting and negotiations can be open and to the point.
All three forms mentioned above can be arranged at times convenient for both parties and any agreements can soon be reflected in a settlement drawn up by solicitors. There is no need to wait for the Court, which is already currently under severe pressure.
Our team of family law specialists work hard to achieve the best outcomes for you including financial settlements in divorce, and they do this in the most time efficient way possible.
At Hegarty Solicitors, we encourage our clients to use ADR methods to avoid court proceedings, making the process quicker and less stressful, offering our support and guidance along the way.