Law firm devises new approach to divorce – by giving couples ‘creative control’

Prettys law firm has developed its own non-adversarial process for clients seeking divorce Picture:

Prettys law firm has developed its own non-adversarial process for clients seeking divorce Picture: KATARSYNA BIALASIEWICZ - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Ipswich lawyers believe they’ve come up with a way to relieve a huge backlog in divorce cases which has built up during the coronavirus lockdown.

Prettys is calling for a rethink of the adversarial approach to marriage breakdown in favour of a dispute resolution service which it has developed.

Its approach – Talking Works – involves exploring different techniques such as mediation or collaboration and potentially involves fees of between £2k and £10k compared to litigation which can cost of average of £20k, it says.

MORE – Interior designer helps create ‘unique’ working environment for town’s budding entrepreneursIn the case of mediation, the couple is brought together with the help of a mediator to steer conversation. Solicitors can be involved but are rarely in the room.

Where the collaborative approach is adopted, lawyers for each spouse are in the room and involved alongside the couple and work to “ground rules” established for the process. In a “round table” divorce, the rules are made to fit the case. Meetings may involve the couple plus solicitors, or sometimes just solicitors.

The less formal “kitchen table” approach involves parties speaking to each other directly rather than through a mediator or lawyer, and taking advice.

Georgie Hall, who heads up the firm’s personal law services team, said often a “contentious approach” is adopted by default in divorce cases, backed up by lengthy legal correspondence.

“For other couples seeking a proportionate outcome without a fight, there can be a struggle to find like-minded solicitors to take on board the client’s aims rather than requiring the client to fit the restrictions of the legal process,” she said.

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Solicitor Victoria Mayhew leads the mediation process at the firm. In recent months she has managed all mediation online which has helped where couples find face-to-face interaction difficult, she said.

“We are finding that virtual mediation has a real place in helping people overcome that uncomfortable feeling of being in a room with someone they no longer want to be in a relationship with,” she said.

Georgina Rayment, head of the family team, said the talking approach gave couples more control over their divorce, rather than leaving it up to a judge who doesn’t know them.

“Our way gives couples more creative control – and the possibility of a resolution in a time frame and to a budget that suits both. Right now, with courts at capacity this is a sensible approach for anyone dealing with a relationship breakdown,” she said.

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