Start the year amicably – how to help your clients to divorce amicably

Start the year amicably – how to help your clients to divorce amicably

The beginning of the year always brings with it enquiries in relation to relationship breakdowns. The end of the old year is often a period of reflection and the New Year an opportunity for change.

No one wants conflict and acrimony when they are working through all the changes that the end of a marriage can bring, and which can cause considerable pain to the couple, their children and extended family members.

The focus for all concerned should be for an amicable divorce. This requires all the professionals involved and the couple approaching the end of the marriage, to work in a constructive way, to enable the process of ending the marriage run smoothly and minimising the disruption that inevitably follows.

So how can you as a solicitor encourage your client to aim for an amicable divorce?

As it is a partnership you should be engaging with your client in the following ways:

  • When first approached by a potential client take the time to understand their particular circumstances, have an initial telephone call, video call or face to face meeting, to glean this information, and guide them through the various processes that will address their needs. If relevant highlight if you are a member of Resolution, the Law Society Family Panel or Children’s Panel. Then you can tailor your services to their individual needs. Work with your client as a part of your team to support them and provide advice and guidance.
  • Encourage positive communication at all times to reduce conflict.
  • Listen to your client’s concerns, and empower them to make informed decisions.
  • Encourage couples to discuss issues between themselves to establish a positive way of resolving issues during the divorce process, but also as a template for future discussions when you are no longer involved, and issues that will inevitably arise as children grow older need to be resolved.
  • Provide objective, honest and realistic feedback about the strengths and weaknesses of your client’s case, thereby avoiding unrealistic expectations arising.
  • Remain objective, non-judgemental and open minded with the ability to explore, all available options. In addition, having the ability to look at issues in a pragmatic and strategic way, helping your client to find a resolution in the most cost-effective way.
  • Recognise early on what additional support your client may need from a counsellor, therapist, financial adviser, accountants or other external professionals, as well as obtaining advice from internal advisers on issues such as Wills, lasting Powers of Attorney, Tax and conveyancing. This will provide a holistic approach to issues facing your client.
  • Consider and explore with your client alternative approaches to resolving difficult issues such as mediation, or arbitration to avoid the need to go to court. Court proceedings should always be the place of last resort.

As a solicitor you can make a real difference to your client’s experience during the divorce process. The relationship between you and your client is crucial in maintaining a balanced and amicable approach. An amicable divorce means that your client is more likely to have a better working relationship with their ex-partner going forward, and that he or she is able to plan and create the next chapters of their life.

Susan Williams, Partner and Head of Family (Cardiff), Ince

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