Married couples considering divorce should be encouraged to mediate over differences because too many are wrongly ending up in costly court battles, according to Thursfields Solicitors.
Experts at the leading Midlands law firm were commenting following a national radio interview with Sir Andrew McFarlane, head of family courts in England and Wales.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Broadcasting House programme, Sir Andrew stated that at least one fifth of marriage break-ups wrongly ended up in court because they were not legal issues but relationship issues.
Hannah Nicholls, an associate director in the family law department at Thursfields, said: “What Sir Andrew was basically saying is that court is not the way forward for many of these couples, and he is absolutely right.
“Sir Andrew highlighted how the language people use is a big factor in making their cases more hostile, and that there is a need to adapt the language used within the process to make it less inflammatory.
“He also talked about the impact that these cases have on children, and that parents often don’t realise how their marital disputes can damage them both in the shorter and longer term.”
Ms Nicholls explained that she and her Thursfields’ Laura Williams had both recently trained as family mediators and were now offering clients a “more conciliatory and less hostile way” of resolving issues.
She added: “We are here to help families move forward into the next chapter of their lives and to do this as smoothly as possible.
“For parents, this is especially important in order to ensure that they have solid co-parenting relationship and are able to continue to support their children together”.
Ms Williams, a director in Thursfields’ family law department, agrees that going to court should not be seen as a first port of call for couples breaking up but as a last resort, unless there are issues such as domestic abuse or safeguarding.
She said: “There needs to be change and people need to understand that there are other options and know what to do.
“Thursfields’ Family team helps clients find alternative ways of dealing with family matters and disputes.
“Mediation is becoming more and more accessible and provides a great framework within which couples can discuss and resolve their issues.”
Ms Williams added: “Couples facing divorce should also be reminded that the government continues to offer the voucher scheme with £500 towards mediation sessions.”