Uncouple – Times are a 'changin'

1 June 2022 | Applicable law: England and Wales

Bob Dylan wrote those lyrics during a time of political and military upheaval as a rallying call for people to come together to bring about a needed change. Some 60 years on, Bob’s line resonates in many of today’s settings. Perhaps one is our current system for divorcing and separating couples.

Doing DR and litigation differently: models, participation and flexibility in Family Law in England and Wales

As lawyers, mediators, arbitrators, and collaborative lawyers and litigators, curating an outcome which suits our clients has always been our goal, whether through conducting litigation, and/or via one of the many family DR processes on offer. But the way clients want to get to that goal is changing (and we have noticed this especially, in the two years following the beginning of the pandemic).

Our understanding of what clients want and above all need has also evolved. This is in part because we have been mobilised by an overburdened family justice system – but it is also as a result of consumer-driven demand for a different way of doing things.

Sharing innovation and encouraging each other as we adapt to changing practices is one of the hallmarks of family law and the Withers Family Team recently put the spotlight on how many of us are creating new models and ways of working in the litigation and DR contexts at an in person family law conference in London in conjunction with TL4, proudly showcasing the Withers separation model, Uncouple.

We are pleased and proud to share our journey and insights in setting up our award-winning innovative way of working with family clients. Uncouple combines elements of mediation, evaluation and, where necessary, arbitration to help couples find the right solution for their family, all under one roof. It delivers what clients want –a bespoke, private, flexible and cost-effective service for both of a couple.

Frustrations with what’s on offer?

With Uncouple we also address frustrations with the current mediation process: sometimes it takes too long, or clients want more direction. On other occasions, mediation can be too prescriptive.

Many of our clients, including those with international connections and those closer to home, want a bespoke wrap-around service on relationship breakdown, with the right balance of guidance and direction to foster fruitful discussion. This is what Uncouple provides. There is a time for court and a time for meeting around a table – the key is to help clients identify which option suits them best. Using plain language about the avenues open to clients and listening to what they really need is critically important, as is bringing financial neutrals and other experts into the process early on so that the couple have all of the information and support they need, to reach consensus for a workable, outcome.

The Withers family team has always made sure our legal advice is inextricably linked to the real lives of our clients, to give them workable, practical outcomes, otherwise it just doesn’t work. And we’ve certainly seen our clients wanting wider family support from us, which was one of the reasons why we created the podcast series Modern Relationships with Mariella Frostrup.

Family law – it is a ‘changin’

There’s still a long way to go but we are seeing a big growth in uptake of mediation and other forms of non-court dispute resolution. And as we look to the future, we are joining forces with our colleagues in other Withers teams to provide bespoke solutions for our clients with wider needs and concerns (trust disputes, for example) to provide a globally holistic dispute service for them too.

This document (and any information accessed through links in this document) is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from any action as a result of the contents of this document.


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