For many couples the start of the New Year marked the end of an old relationship.
Divorce and separation lawyers across the country returned to their offices after the festive season to greet an influx of fresh clients enquiring about divorce and separation. This surge, commencing on the first working day back after the New Year, is a phenomenon commonly referred to as ‘Divorce Day’ or ‘D: Day’. In reality this peak in enquiries typically lasts for the duration of the first fortnight in January.
A Christmas marred by rows and disagreement, rather than a period of joy and the promise of things to come, will have led to many couples re-evaluating their relationships and in many cases making the decision to separate.
The commencement of this busy period of 2013 brought with it the announcement that Ministers have pledged £10million to speed up and ease the tension that can be caused during divorce and separation.
The cash will be used to subsidise mediation services that are designed to help couples negotiate how to divide their property and care for their children. Family justice minister Lord McNally pledged the extra £10million for the services, stating that they offer a “quicker and simpler approach which brings better outcomes” for the families involved.
The Ministry of Justice has said that on average a contested divorce, argued in court, can cost approximately £4,000 while a mediated split funded by the state costs £500. The time implications of mediated solution – 110 days – compared to contested divorces often taking 400+ days are staggering. By steering more of the public funded couples towards mediation an enormous amount of unnecessary time and money could be saved.
The mediation process is set to become an increasingly common practice during 2013, with changes to the Legal Aid system directing all but the most at risk cases towards mediation. What this means, quite simply, is that from the 1st of April 2013 people requiring family law services will not be eligible for Legal Aid unless they are applying for and injunction, already in mediation or they are in possession of evidence of domestic violence.
Mediation and collaborative law practices, where couples agree to resolve their issues without using the court process, have also seen a significant increase among privately paying clients. Couples are choosing to take part in these alternative forms of dispute resolution in an effort to find a less stressful solution to their dispute that can be handled in a more expedient fashion.
Rachel Buckley, Director of Hartnell Chanot & Partners, commented-“Our firm has been utilising mediation solutions for our clients for 21 years and there is a noticeable difference between the atmosphere in these cases and that of our contested cases.” He went on to highlight that- “Not only are mediated splits typically resolved faster and more affordably but by engaging in productive and amicable negotiations the stress and anxiety often associated with divorce is greatly reduced. This is particularly important when there are children involved.”