Mediation takes a front seat with a boost of government funding

After the recent cuts to legal aid the government has taken steps to redress the balance in favour of separated parents by announcing £6.5 million of support. The money will help over a quarter of a million separated parents throughout Britain, funding pioneering and innovative support to help them work together for the sake of their children.

The new funding has been awarded to seven voluntary and third sector organisations and will give around 280,000 separated families targeted help to work together in their children’s interests. The funding is part of £20 million the government has dedicated to helping separated families, as it attempts to provide as much support to out of court settlements as possible following the large cuts to legal aid. The coalition will hope that this extra funding will prevent warring couples from representing themselves in court, which slows down the legal process and often results in vitriolic testimonies against former partners. Taking couples away out of this confrontational environment should create a more constructive atmosphere that is much less harmful to any children involved.

The government funding has been awarded to projects in Powys, Oxfordshire, Cheshire, Newcastle, Warwickshire, Scotland, Kent, Stirlingshire, Angus, Birmingham and the West Midlands. The projects include an online tool that provides coaching to separated couples and face to face guidance and mediation projects to help low income couples. Alongside the schemes are plans for parenting classes for teenage mums and dads, counselling and therapy projects and specialist support for those who live in fear of their ex-partners.

The focus on providing mediation services highlights the government’s desire to protect the interests of children in these situations. Because mediation is focused on helping couples resolve their differences amicably there is less risk of the separation being hostile as it can often be when taken through the court system. Children will be better off in a family where parents are on good terms and focussed on being the best possible parents to their children, rather than looking after their own personal interests.

It will be some time before we can assess the impact of the government’s latest efforts to give families an alternative to going through the court system. Whilst the cuts to legal aid may help to cut the deficit in the long term, critics of the move will maintain that in many cases mediation is simply not viable as an option for those separating. In many relationships communication deteriorates to such an extent that mediation will not help and court proceedings are ultimately required. However this latest round of funding is focussed on helping parents re-engage with each other no matter how bad their relationship has become. Legal aid is no longer a reality for many separated families, and they will have to decide if they want what is best for their children before completely rejecting family mediation.

About the author: Ramsdens Solicitors offers help settling child custody disputes inside and outside of court.

A Tampa Collaborative Divorce Can Save You Money

When most people think of divorce, they envision scenes from War of the Roses or Kramer vs. Kramer. Yet more people in Tampa Bay are learning that there is another way, collaborative divorce, which is just a sensible method to resolve private family disputes. However, just as mediation was characterized in the 1980’s and 1990’s as a rich person’s option, many people think that the collaborative process is only for the very wealthy. Not only attorneys, but also a collaborative facilitator and financial professional are retained, so only the very rich can afford the collaborative model, right?

Wrong.

A four year study conducted by the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals found that 87% of female participants and 47% of male participants of collaborative family law cases had an annual income of less than $100,000.

Though the collaborative process may not be the cheapest in all cases, it has a substantial opportunity to save you money as compared to the courtroom battles we have all come to associate with divorce.

First, child issues, such as custody schedules and decision-making authority, are some of the most emotional and costliest issues in family law matters. Lawyers in courtroom cases tend to prepare interrogatories (questions) to be answered under penalty of perjury, set depositions, conduct opposition research to put the other spouse in the worst possible light, and prepare for trial. Attorneys’ invoices pile up along each stage of this process. Alternatively, these fees and costs can be greatly reduced in the collaborative process where facilitators, who usually are licensed mental health professionals, can cut through the clutter of emotionally-charged issues and bring the clients (and lawyers) to focus on the future and best interests of the children.

Similarly, a financial professional (who is usually either an accountant or financial planner) adds cost-saving value to the process. In litigated cases, lawyers prepare “requests for production of documents and things” that demand reams of financial documents which could conceivably be relevant. Searching for those documents cost clients tremendous time and money while, when received, the requesting attorney will spend countless billable hours meticulously combing through the documents. In the collaborative process, on the other hand, the financial professional will only request documents that are necessary to make an informed settlement option. His or her expertise in finances enables the financial professional to review and assess the documents and develop settlement options more quickly (and often times at a lower rate) than attorneys.

Finally, the dirty little secret in family law is that the vast majority of litigation cases eventually settle. However, because having a judge decide on the parties’ personal matters always remains a threat, in traditional courtroom divorce the attorneys will always work on two tracks: (i) attempt to settle the case while (ii) conducting opposition research and preparing for the courtroom battle in case the parties cannot come to an agreement. In the collaborative process, attorneys are retained solely for the purpose of settlement and are contractually barred from taking disputes to be decided in court, and so they are not racking up those billable hours planning to fight it out in court.

Now, back to the question, is collaborative divorce only for the wealthy? Absolutely not, and I would be happy to speak with you and talk more about how the process can help your family.

If you have questions regarding how a Tampa Bay collaborative divorce process can help you, schedule a consultation with attorney Adam B. Cordover at (813) 443-0615 or fill out our contact form.

Adam B. Cordover is Vice President of the Collaborative Divorce Institute of Tampa Bay and is a member of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals. Adam spearheaded the taskforce that drafted the Hillsborough County collaborative family practice administrative order signed by Chief Judge Manuel Menendez.

Divorce and the Holidays

(United States law) The holidays can be a joyous and loving time for millions of people across the world. Unfortunately, with nearly 50 percent of all marriages ending in divorce, the holidays can also be a painful and even depressing time. If you and your former spouse have children together, your relationship doesn’t end once you sign the divorce papers. This is especially the case during the holiday season.

Depending on the nature of your divorce, this can be a very emotional and heated time between you and your former spouse. However, no matter how much you and your former spouse may argue and fight, it is important to put emotions aside and think of your children’s well being before your own.

This is by no means an easy task. Fortunately, there are a few helpful tips for divorced parents during the holidays. If you and your spouse are recently divorced or have been divorced for years, consider the following as you approach the holiday season and the New Year:

  • Do not prevent your child from seeing or having fun with his or her other parent
  • Spell out holiday custody arrangements in your custody agreement so you have your arrangement in writing
  • Work on letting go of your anger toward your former spouse
  • Try to keep as many traditions as possible following the divorce. Too much change right away can be difficult for your children to handle.
  • Do not treat the holidays as a competition with your former spouse. That doesn’t instill good habits with your children.
  • Know the details of where your child will be during the holidays and coordinate with your former spouse
  • Work on establishing traditions with your children so they have something to look forward to and remember for years to come
  • If you can, celebrate the holidays with your former spouse. If you two can stand to be together for just a few hours it can be very beneficial for your children.

Sharing custody of your children can be difficult, but with a little help and planning, you can get through the holiday season with as little stress and drama as possible.

Carlos is an avid legal blogger who is interested in raising awareness for the ways a divorce lawyer can help individuals come to fair terms with their former spouses.

Children should come first in divorce

The overwhelming majority of Britons believe that putting children’s interests first or avoiding conflict are the most important factors when going through divorce, according to a new survey from Resolution, the national family law association.

Four out of five (78%) say that putting children’s interests first would be their most or second most important consideration in a divorce, while 53% would prioritise making the divorce as conflict-free as possible.

Despite this, over four-fifths of people (81%) believe that children end up being the main casualties of divorce, and 40% believe that divorces can never be without conflict – a figure that rises to nearly half (47%) of those who are currently divorced themselves. Nearly half (45%) think that most divorces involve a visit to court, despite the increasing availability of non-court alternatives,

In stark contrast to some of the high-profile divorce cases in recent years, financial factors are not seen as particularly important, with only 1% saying that being financially better off than their partner would be the most important consideration should they divorce.

Parents Access Rights ‘Enshrined’ in Law

One of the reasons that divorce law is so complex is that very often the rules are a matter of fine interpretation. Deciding what is the best case for a child as young as two or three can come down to a few difficult paragraphs of wording or just a better argued case.

Sometimes, however, the law is perfectly clear cut and in an attempt to simplify divorce legislation, the government has recently put through an amendment which will ‘enshrine’ the rights of both parents to have access to a child. In essence, what was once a complex and subtle issue is to be made explicit and the law will serve the rights of both parents in most circumstances. So do these changes make sense? Has the government made the right move?

Protecting Fathers
Though at all times divorce solicitors will attempt to set out the proper, just way of dealing with an issue, this amendment will undoubtedly benefit fathers seeking access rights. In just under 10% of divorce cases children reside ‘mainly’ with their father and this legislation seeks to correct this bias.

Of course, this should not overrule what is in the child’s immediate interest if, say, a father or mother is violent or unfit for the role, but it does give genuinely willing fathers a leg-up.

Admin over Justice
Plenty of family law solicitors have expressed their discontent with the changes  and they claim that the new legislation is simply not required – in calculating the interests of the child, courts already take into account the benefits of having influence from both parents.

When parents are given rights to access, disputes start arising over whether the right to access should be equal or properly apportioned. Undoubtedly, this will put a good deal of extra strain on courts for what will be more or less the same end result.

The Paramountcy Principle

After all is said and done, what realistically and legally matters is the interest of the child – this is the paramountcy principle. Though there are many cases in which both mothers and fathers fall unfortunately the wrong side of the legislation, family law experts do understand and appreciate the benefit of enabling joint access wherever possible. Though these changes might redress the balance between those living with dad and those living with mum, the statistics really aren’t the point – what matters is the child’s well-being and at the moment, judges do all they can to ensure fair access to children.

Though we’ll have to wait and see what the real effects of these changes will be, it’s likely that they will be pretty unpopular throughout the justice system and, as happened in Australia, we might well see a reversal of the law in the future.

Clough & Willis – Manchester based divorce solicitors . Contact 0800 083 0815 for specialist advice & information about divorce law, divorce settlements & child custody.

International marriages

An international marriage can include a husband and wife of differing nationalities, a couple living together in a country which is not their home country or even a couple living apart from each other in separate countries.

Statistics

Within the member states of the EU there are approximately 122 million marriages, 16 million or 13% of which are international marriages and, in 2007, within the 27 states of the EU, 1 million divorces took place with 140,000 or 13% of those having an international element.

Divorce

According to divorce solicitors in London, the courts of the EU member states have differing ways of deciding which particular country’s law should apply when it comes to the divorce of a couple in an international marriage. This can create an awful lot of legal uncertainty and may even lead to one partner taking advantage of the other partner, who could be in a weaker position financially, with possibly the stronger spouse pushing through the proceedings in a jurisdiction where the applied law favours him or her over the other partner.

The Settlement

Financial settlements for divorces can vary from country to country so, in order to achieve the best settlement figure, the spouse will need to seek family law advice on this particular area.

Although it is possible to begin legal proceedings for a divorce in more than one country the EU rule states that the divorce which was started first will be the divorce which will prevail.

Going Home

Many family breakdowns in the EU have an international element and often, in the event of the breakdown, some partners will wish to return to their home countries to seek the support and comfort of their family and friends.

However, this isn’t as straightforward as just jumping on a plane and moving back into the family home, especially when there are children involved in the breakdown.

Children

If a spouse has children and wishes to relocate abroad with his or her children then English law states that the spouse will need to obtain permission from everyone who has parental responsibility of those children before leaving the country or to apply for an order of the English court.

If a child or children are removed, without permission, by a spouse to one of the countries who are signatories to The Hague and European Convention on Child Abduction those countries will give full co-operation to make sure that the child or children are returned to the parent still residing in England.

However, things can become particularly tricky if a parent relocates with his or her children, without permission, to a country which isn’t a signatory of the Convention on Child Abduction and it can be an extremely costly, confusing and very traumatic experience for the parent attempting to get his or her children back, especially when it comes to initiating legal proceedings in a foreign country.

Historically, there was a presumption that children would move abroad with their mother if she was a foreign national wishing to go back to her home country, but a recent Court of Appeal decision has stressed that the welfare of the children is paramount and that each case needs to be determined on it’s own merits.