In the current economic climate, we seem surrounded by doom and gloom. In the world of divorce and relationship breakdown, research seems to indicate that more people feel trapped in difficult relationships and are unable to see a way out. Consequently, happy endings seem a remote dream consigned to the world of Disney or Mills and Boon romantic novels.
I recently learned that a couple of years ago a group called Happy Endings Foundation came to prominence demanding that authors of children's books came up with happier endings. I understand that, it quickly became apparent that the foundation was simply a marketing ploy which was more akin to an April Fools Day hoax, although it was in October. By this time however, the BBC and several newspapers had taken up the story.
In reality, particularly in troubled times, I believe that many people still crave happy endings.
When a relationship breaks down, there is no automatic fix and lawyers are unable to guarantee a happy ending. I frequently see couples in a divorce situation or relationship breakdown where both of them become entrenched in their respective positions, with detrimental consequences for the children. In such situations the only winners are seen to be the lawyers as frequently the couples assets are substantially eroded to pay their legal costs.
Many lawyers including myself are now recognising that this is not the best way to handle difficulties that arise upon a relationship breakdown and are seeking to use the Collaborative Law process. This is a process designed to assist parties involved in a relationship breakdown facilitating their own agreement on a wide range of issues for the benefit of the family as a whole. The agreement is reached by way of a series of 4 way meetings that take place with the parties and their lawyers.
The process can also involve other professionals who may be able to assist such as financial advisors, counsellors etc. When committing to the process, the parties agree not to go to court and they therefore avoid the costs of pursuing a more traditional battle through the court in terms of both emotional cost and financial cost.
In the present economic climate, many couples are finding it more difficult to resolve in particular financial issues that arise when a relationship breaks down. Although no magic wand can be waved in the collaborative law process, it does potentially enable the parties to reach more innovative solutions than would be possible under the more traditional route of litigation through the courts. It also means that there is hope that some form of happy ending can be achieved for the family unit which allows both parties and the children to move forward positively and constructively.
Elizabeth Gallagher - Solicitor & Collaborative Law Specialist, Samuel Phillips Law Firm