Aim for an amicable divorce, says top family lawyer
PUBLISHED: 11:30 07 February 2020 | UPDATED: 11:57 07 February 2020
The new year is traditionally a time for couples to take advice on divorce with all the impact that separation can have on the family and its finances. It's always stressful, but there are ways of winding down the tension.
The season of goodwill can spark ill will among some couples, with a reported 13 people applying online to divorce their partners on Christmas Day, according to the Ministry of Justice. The following week brought another 455 internet applications in England and Wales.
There is a reason why the first Monday of the new year is known by family lawyers as "divorce Monday", and the first full week of the new year is typically one of the busiest periods for starting divorce proceedings, as unhappy couples call on specialist solicitors.
Happily, the number of couples divorcing is falling (possibly because fewer people are marrying), but 42% of marriages still end in divorce while men and women in their forties are most likely to split.
"The Christmas and new year period is often a catalyst for divorce proceedings," confirms Catherine Polli, of Pinney Talfourd, with offices in Hornchurch, Brentwood, Upminster and Leigh-on-sea as well as Canary Wharf in London.
Heading up one of the biggest family law teams in Essex, Catherine adds: "People make new year resolutions, they decide they need to move forward in their lives, or perhaps they just had a difficult Christmas, the straw that breaks the camel's back maybe. Others will have made the decision before Christmas but decide to wait so as not to spoil the festivities.
"The first thing we do as family lawyers is to listen. We will often advise clients of the various alternative options: specialist counselling or mediation, for example. People need to be absolutely sure that they want to go ahead because it can be an extremely costly process."
Pinney Talfourd's team include Resolution Accredited specialists and collaborative lawyers. Resolution is a group of family lawyers who believe that a non-confrontational approach to family law issues produces better outcomes for separating families and their children.
Founded in 1982, Resolution has maintained a commitment to a constructive way of working, enshrined in a code of practice, while growing to become a membership organisation for professionals that works with separating families.
By bringing together the different practitioners working in family justice, it is hoped the ethos of the code of practice will help to ensure families dealing with separation and divorce receive the necessary support to resolve their issues.
"Of course, it becomes more difficult if you have confrontation, but we are seeing less of it as the legal profession becomes more specialised and more family lawyers like us have Resolution membership," says Catherine, who has been practising family law for about 20 years.
"The central issues are always children and money. We always promote a conciliatory approach which hopefully leads to a better outcome for parents and children. If a settlement can be agreed in mediation, it's a better result for our client and the family.
"You have to look at the impact on the family - these are real people that we're dealing with. Yes, sometimes a divorce has to go to court, but one must always look at the potential costs because they can run away with themselves if you're not careful.
"We family lawyers see people at their most vulnerable, so we want the process to be as amicable as possible. We try to keep everything as calm as we can, keeping the tension down, and try to do everything by agreement."
Pinney Talfourd's 11-strong team of family, divorce, children and relationship solicitors are ranked as a 'Top Tier' firm in Essex by Legal 500, which ranks UK law firms every year. This year, it reported: "The family team [at Pinney Talfourd] manages a spectrum of contentious and non-contentious high-value matters, often with a cross-border element... head and shoulders above its local competition and capable of holding its own with the very best."
The team provides a free initial consultation as well as fixed fee options in certain areas. There is also transparent costs advice and a costs benefit analysis at each stage of the separation. In addition to this, appointments can be made in the evening and on Saturdays to help accommodate busy lives.