Resolving your family disputes: Court proceedings should always be the last option!

25th July 2022


I could not agree more with Sir Andrew MacFarlane, the President of the Family Division, when he said that the Family Court is “fully stretched”. With proceedings in the Family Court taking anywhere between 16 weeks to 18 months in my experience, the system is indeed struggling.

In an interview with BBC Radio 4 on Sunday 24th July 2022, he also said “Some of the people who come to Court, particularly to discuss disputes about their children, would be better served not coming to Court.”

Family disputes can have significant emotional and financial toll on separating couples, and it is important that focus is not lost in these types of disputes by long drawn-out Court proceedings which will not serve either of the parties involved.

Whilst I echo the sentiments of the President, there are cases which inadvertently require judicial intervention to reach a fair outcome. Cases where there are power imbalance, financial imbalance, and general hostility towards resolving matters will require the Court to intervene. It goes without saying that cases involving abuse no matter its form and safeguarding of children requires the Court’s intervention.

As family lawyers, our role is pivotal in guiding our clients and steering them towards alternatives to Court and to guide them through resolving their family disputes via these means. Encouraging clients to put their children first and to consider the financial and emotional impact of protracted litigation has and should always continue to be the norm.

I advise clients often to discuss matters between themselves and come to an arrangement that suits their families. To try alternatives to Court such as mediation, arbitration, round table meetings etc. One thing I was taught as a junior lawyer is to remind my clients that if they go to Court, it is not about them and never will be. It will be about the children, if it is a children matter, and about what is fair in line with the law and factors which should be considered if it is a matrimonial matter. No one gets to be a winner. “I want my day in Court” is not what it is.

This honest approach is what our clients at BHP Law appreciate and value as it is important that they understand how they can resolve their disputes in the best possible way that will allow them to move on with their lives with dignity and respect for each other.

Family lawyers should also recognise that there may also be emotional blockers affecting a resolution, this is where signposting comes in. Separating is never easy, and your client may need the support of a Counsellor or a Divorce Coach to help them work through those emotions and see what life will be beyond their separation. Using children as a weapon to antagonise the other parent is never the right approach as it will have long lasting negative impact on the children therefore be mindful of this.

If you require advice and guidance on divorce/separation including child arrangements, do contact the Family Team of BHP Law on 01325 466794 or visit our website. We offer free initial 30 minutes consultation and will be happy to provide you with information to enable you to make informed decisions.

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