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‘Divorce Day’ the Survival Guide

Breaking point: January 4th 2021 – ‘Divorce Day’ Survival Guide

East of England Charity, the The Family Mediation Trust, is ready for one of their busiest days of the year, 4th January, commonly referred to as “Divorce Day”. Each year, the first day back to work after Christmas results in a peak in people looking to start divorce proceedings. 

The family holiday time during the Christmas break can lead many people to look to make life changing decisions. The stresses of family gatherings, financial stress due to festive spending, spending prolonged periods of time together can all lead to a very stressful period for many.

This blog aims to help answer some of the common questions people starting the process of divorce could have.

What is it going to cost me?

The cost of getting divorced can vary significantly. Many separated couples apply for their own divorce and a divorce petition can be downloaded from the Government website. Others instruct a solicitor and will often be quoted a set-fee for the divorce. The areas which cost more are; negotiating arrangements for the children of the family and dealing with all the property and financial matters resulting from the breakdown of a relationship.

The best way to keep the costs of the process down is to have a willingness to work towards an agreed outcome and this is where family mediation can be of huge help. This approach will also lead to a quicker process. Mediation is non therapeutic, we are not here to help two people get back together; it is a future focused process which enables separated couples to make decisions themselves on all aspects of a family breakdown with a neutral, highly skilled mediator.

Data from Legal Aid cases show the average cost per client of mediation is £535 compared to £2,823 for cases going to court. For those on very low incomes or on benefits, it is likely that Legal Aid could be applied for to cover the costs. More information on this can be found on this link

Will my children’s mother or father automatically get the children?

Mediators can’t give legal advice, but we can give legal information and ensure that both are able to access independent legal advice as required, while some cases don’t lead to an agreed solution its worth highlighting that 70% of mediation cases reach an agreed conclusion.

I’ve been told I have to go through mediation, is this correct? Why do I have to go through this process?

The court has an expectation that separated families will, at the very least, explore whether Mediation can be of assistance; Mediation is a voluntary process. For anyone wanting to make an application to the family court, they need to meet with a mediator alone, to show that they have explored whether mediation can be of help. During that initial meeting, they may decide they do not wish to mediate, or the mediator may say it is not suitable. In either of those situations, the mediator signs the relevant page of the court form so that an application can then be made.

The first step is to contact a mediator and ask for a Mediation Assessment and Information Meeting (MIAM). This will cost in the region of £119.

What issues are covered through the mediation process?

A mediator helps you to arrange the practical elements of the separation; when and how you each see your children, division of property and financial assets. The majority of cases are children only, but 29% of cases will include property. It’s also very common for the mediation to focus on children and/or property and/ or assets.

A mediator will work with you to identify what issues the mediation should cover in your situation.

I don’t think mediation will work, what are my other options?

Mediation is not for every situation. The MIAM meeting will explore your circumstance to determine this, however, for most there is a need to prove you have had a MIAM and if it is not the option best suited to your situation then the mediator will signpost you to other services and independent legal advice.

In addition to mediation the options available to you include:

  • Solicitor
  • A collaborative family lawyer
  • An accountant or financial adviser

Each of these options have pros and cons and we would advise you explore how each of these could help you in reaching agreements. 

Currently, there is no legal aid support available for legal advice during a separation. If you are struggling to afford this advice, you need either contact the Norfolk Community Law Service or CAB

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