What Role Does Mediation Play In No-Fault Divorce?
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The long-awaited introduction of No-Fault Divorce - which dispenses with the ‘blame game’ - makes it easier for couples to manage their separation and work together to avoid lengthy, costly, and stressful court disputes.
The ground-breaking changes in the law, which came into effect on April 6, enable divorces to be completed in just six months. They also help separating couples to focus on vital issues such as finances, children, and property.
New time scales include a 20 week ‘reflection period’ between lodging an application and applying for a Conditional Order stating when a marriage will end.
During the 20-week period, mediation can be instrumental in helping couples to negotiate an agreed settlement of the financial issues arising from their separation. This can then be simply provided to the court for approval without any hearings.
We cannot overestimate the importance of addressing the financial consequences of separation, including pensions, insurance benefits, and potential tax implications, and obtaining a court order which confirms how those issues are to be dealt with, before applying for a Final Order which legally ends the marriage.
However, a Final Order of divorce does not, on its own, bring an end to the financial claims which spouses have against each other.
Confidential mediation sessions enable couples to work constructively towards agreed arrangements aligned with the family’s long-term interests.
This measured approach, which keeps communication channels open, can also be key to sorting out the welfare of, and arrangements for, children - whose interests should always come first. Adopting a constructive and united approach can likewise lessen the emotional impact of the split on the children.
It is important that legal advice is taken to support the mediation process – an experienced mediator will guide couples as to when this is needed.
Under No-Fault Divorce, individuals can apply for a Court Order to start the divorce process and, for the first time ever, couples can also submit a joint application on mutual terms.
Irrespective of the divorce process, an early conversation with a family lawyer can help to make informed decisions about the future. Specialist family lawyers often speak with their clients before they make any firm decision to separate and can allay many of their fears.
Jones Myers partner Nicki Mitchell is a Mediator and Collaborative Family Lawyer