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There’s greater recognition within the profession and judiciary that couples need to understand more about the many options open to them to resolve their difficulties.
Natalie: Looking to the future then, and at the many options available to clients who need help and support when their relationship breaks down, how do you see family law changing and how will that benefit families?
Claire: We’ve been seeing changes coming for a long time. The selling of Court buildings is a physical sign of the messages the courts and the government has been saying for a while – which is that couples need to try to sort out their situation without going to court. We’re also seeing a shift in approach. Although, it’s been a long time coming (and sadly, there’s still further delays) the eventual introduction of no fault divorce law in 2022 not only means the divorce process will hopefully be less painful for divorcing couples but that the reform is in line with the culture of dispute resolution.
Natalie: Many people have heard about mediation and arbitration, but perhaps are not always clear about what they involve. What’s your experience about what clients understand?
Claire: It’s very difficult for clients to understand the different options and what the best route for them might be. It’s the responsibility of the lawyers to be discussing all these options with their clients. Only last week I spoke to a couple about mediation and our Uncouple service who had been advised by other lawyers that ‘it was not legal for one lawyer to work with a couple’. That’s completely wrong. Mediation has been an option for couples since the 1980s when one of my colleagues, Diana Parker, and others created mediation for family matters.
It’s the responsibility of the lawyers to be discussing all these options with their clients.