We are well placed at BLB Solicitors to offer a variety of dispute resolution options to our clients, as both myself and Angeli Dunkerley are trained Collaborative lawyers, and Angeli is also a mediator. I recently attended the Dispute Resolution 2012 conference in Oxford, hosted by Resolution. Over 170 practitioners, all collaborative lawyers and/or mediators, gathered together to share ideas and to develop our dispute resolution skills. It was an excellent event, with many inspiring speakers and the chance to explore what we can do to help make the very difficult time of separation and divorce easier for our clients and their families.
However, whilst we were all gathered together it came to light that a recent survey carried out by Resolution revealed that a vast proportion of the public have no real knowledge of what dispute resolution actually is. A report in the Law Gazette states that 45% of people think that a divorce involves going to Court, whereas 40% believe that a divorce cannot be without conflict. So it seems that whilst there are many lawyers trained in out-of-court settlements, so called “dispute resolution”, we are not making it clear to people what options are on offer to them. In fact, dispute resolution was previously known as “alternative dispute resolution”, but was renamed to emphasise the fact that these ways of resolving matters should no longer be considered alternative, but should be seen as mainstream options open to everyone.
I do wonder what we need to do to raise awareness of the options available to people. How many people were aware that the week beginning 25th September was actually Dispute Resolution Week? All good family lawyers should be familiar with the different ways of resolving disputes, be it collaborative law, mediation or the more traditional negotiation/Court based route. They should discuss the options with you at the start of your case, and regularly review them as matters progress. Therefore most people who have already started down the path of separation and divorce may have some idea about the options, but people who are yet to see a Solicitor may well not be aware of the different processes out there. I wrote here about some of the options available on separation and divorce. A further option which I did not go into in that post is arbitration; where an outcome is imposed by an arbitrator, keeping the case out of the Court and providing a solution expeditiously whilst enabling the couple to keep some control over the process. This can include, for example, whether the outcome should be determined based on written arguments only, or whether the couple want to give evidence directly to the arbitrator.
So, as you can see, there are many options available to the separating couple and it doesn’t have to be the bitter fights often depicted in the press and in films. In fact, the majority of my clients going though separation and divorce do not see the inside of a courtroom at all. But it is clear to me that more needs to be done to raise awareness of the many excellent dispute resolution options available.
Image by David Singleton under a Creative Commons Licence