With the one-year anniversary of No Fault Divorce having passed earlier this year, leading family lawyer Gemma Hope from Family Law Partners, tells how its practice is bucking the trend by encouraging clients to save money and take a more ‘agreeable’ route to divorce.
With on average 42% of marriages ending in divorce, and the average cost of divorce estimated at £14,500+VAT, as well as continued extreme delays in family court proceedings, myself and my colleagues at Family Law Partners question whether other lawyers are failing to advise clients about more conciliary routes towards divorce to resolve their marital disputes.
Since the No Fault Divorce legislation came into effect in April 2022, our team is seeing increasing numbers of clients take up our ground-breaking “Agreeable” model, where a specialist family lawyer and a relationship coach work together with the divorcing couple to reduce legal costs and the emotional impact of divorce and to keep the dispute out of the courts. At a time when many are being crippled by increased cost of living expenses, this fixed fee model saves the average couple thousands of pounds (as much as 37%) on reaching a divorce settlement.
Family Law Partners client Justin and his now former spouse came to Family Law Partner’s Agreeable team to help legally sort out their finances, as they had already agreed to co-parent their children, who are all either financially independent or teenagers. Their finances involved selling a jointly owned property as well as how they work out their pension sharing and child support.
“I cannot stress how much I think that this solution is perfect for people separating on good terms, but I also think the approach could help people who are struggling to come to an agreement.”
Gemma Hope, Director from Family Law Partners commented:
“We are more than 12 months on from the ‘no fault’ divorce legislation that helps make the process a little kinder during which for many is already a stressful, and expensive period of their lives – the end to their marital relationship. However, some lawyers working with people getting divorced still seem to be thinking more about their profits rather than their principles and are continuing to drive people down the court route.
We know not all divorces can be settled through non-court processes, but surely, we should be advising those couples where this is the best option to do this, for their sake as well as the court system that is reaching crisis point. The last 12 months have been financially tough for many. Adding financial pressures into a divorce situation can make the pressure even worse. With the average divorce costing £ 14,500+VAT, and in some cases considerably more, we are not surprised our Agreeable model is being taken up by those who want to end their marriage without breaking the bank.
Since we launched Agreeable, Resolution – the governing body for specialist family lawyers – has launched its own ‘Resolution Together’, model. We are pleased to be ahead of the curve in relation to this and as a result already have a significant level of experience of the client journey when it comes to this model of working”.
Recognising that there are some corners of the family law profession who do not support the 2-clients-1-lawyer way of working, Gemma continued:
“Working in this way is not without controversy, and despite the backing from Resolution many will be concerned about the potential risk for a conflict of interest to arise. Also, if we are being cynical, given the cost benefits to clients the lawyers that are driven mostly by financial targets may not be keen to work in this way as it can keep costs down by resolving matters without court proceedings. Not all lawyers will be willing to provide this service to clients. In my opinion those that do should (like the lawyers working within our Agreeable model), also have specialist dispute resolution training (for example be trained and practising as a mediator) and work together with a relationship coach (who has a professional therapeutic background) as well as another lawyer colleague to provide a fresh pair of eyes when it comes to drafting the necessary legal documents needed to finalise matters. This is because of the different dynamics and potential issues that can arise when working with a separating couple rather than an individual who is going through a separation.”
Within Agreeable, a divorcing couple instruct one of our specialist family lawyers who is also a qualified mediator to work with them both, as a team, to deliver bespoke solutions.
Agreeable sees us collectively combine our specialist legal expertise and mediation skills with therapeutic support – led by our own in-house Director of Client Wellbeing, Kim Crewe – to provide divorcing couples specialist emotional and legal support they need from one team with common goals.
In recent years, we have seen divorcing couples more frequently turning to unregulated services to assist. These unregulated services have no central authority overseeing their activities, no one to check the competence of the services being offered, no one to check if one spouse is being bullied or manipulated by the other and no one to hold accountable when it all goes wrong. To address this, we have designed Agreeable.
With Agreeable the separating couple also have the additional benefit of another specialist family lawyer within the team drafting the necessary legal documents for them to conclude matters, providing an additional check and review.
Integral to Agreeable is our Director of Client Wellbeing, a therapist that is embedded within our team that helps with the initial and ongoing screening and safeguarding checks to assess whether the one lawyer/one couple model is suitable for the divorcing couple and if it is then works with the separating couple throughout the process alongside the specialist lawyer.