Clients may simply want to know their legal options and to receive advice as to what might be in their best interests when their relationship is in difficulty . Some clients prefer to negotiate themselves or may be in mediation with another provider and wish to use me as a sounding board or advisor and support throughout the process.
Not all cases are suitable for mediation and sometimes supported expert negotiation works best. I aim to always provide first rate, pragmatic and friendly support in a cost effective manner. I am happy to liaise with other solicitors and to meet them for round table discussions in addition to negotiating via correspondence and telephone. I help clients to formulate proposals early on in the process and avoid wasting money on matters that are not going to take them forwards.
Where court proceedings are necessary, I conduct the advocacy myself or work with expert family barristers as required. I always treat a day in court as an opportunity to settle the case if at all possible and, if not, to move matters forward and narrow the issues. Court is essentially a further opportunity to negotiate a fair settlement and that always remains my main focus. A court time-table can prevent drift and ensure compliance with financial disclosure or provide emergency remedies. The Financial Dispute Resolution Appointment is a confidential hearing where a District Judge will give an impartial view of the case and the vast majority of cases settle at this hearing or shortly after. Only a very small minority of cases go to final hearing - contrary to the impression sometimes given in the media. Where parties are anxious to avoid court proceedings they might consider collaborative law.
Collaborative law is a non-adversarial, solution orientated process to assist parties reach agreement following relationship breakdown. In this role I provide legal advice and act as advocate throughout the process expressing my client's needs and views and so taking this pressure off the party concerned. The process is conducted as a series of "four way meetings" and once all the issues are resolved the agreement is drafted up as a court order in the usual way. The advantages of this approach is that the couple retain control over this confidential process and the lawyers and parties commit to a cooperative rather than adversarial way forward to the benefit of all concerned. Full and frank financial disclosure is made in the usual way. If the process does not work the couple are free to take matters to court with new lawyers. This means that the couple and their advisors are more likely to try to work through issues and find an acceptable solution, rather then abandon the process.