Will Collaborative Law win over Mediation in the end?
Interview by Alternative Divorce Guide Suzy Miller with Mediator and Collaborative Lawyer Kim Beatson of Anthony Gold Solicitors
What is the best way to go through divorce?
“I would say to anyone: ‘Here is my options leaflet, giving you the choices of Mediation, Collaborative Law, lawyer-led mediation or the court system. It’s your choice. Think about those options carefully.’”
Why don’t people know more about it?
“Mediation awareness was funded by the government for a time, and Divorce Mediation has been around in the UK since the mid 80’s. Collaborative law has only been around in the UK since 2003. The main people who have to take responsibility for the fact that the public are mostly unaware of Collaborative Law, are the lawyers. Most clients still come to lawyers as the gate keeper, and the onus is on the person taking those initial telephone calls and making those appointments to let them know that court is the last resort, and that there are preferred resolution options. That is what I am trying to make sure happens in my own practice at Anthony Gold Solicitors.”
What happens if you’re not legally married?
“Dispute resolution processes, whether Mediation or Collaborative, can be very useful for couples who separate having been cohabiting and who are not legally married.
In this country people do not always realise that they have few rights for themselves which can be very unfair after a long relationship with children, with career and pension sacrifices. So Mediation and Collaborative Law are perfect forums for dissolving that sort of relationship because the importance for both parties is that they are bringing their idea of fairness to the table. They are not trying to emulate the court system and the uncertain outcome that could be achieved. They are able to set the agenda and create their own solution to their family dispute.”
Does Dispute Resolution make business sense for law firms?
“I think there is a sound business model for all forms of dispute resolution. It’s good for the client, but ensures a good cash flow for the professionals as it’s so much quicker than remuneration from court-based cases. So there is every reason for regarding it as a complementary practice, and it creates a much more authentic solicitor-client relationship if you are not only able to offer clients the most expensive option – that of going to court.
I think this government has missed an opportunity with Mediation with no further funding to support the encouragement for clients to use MIAMS. Solicitors and all family law professionals are responsible for getting the word out there for all forms of dispute resolution, and for encouraging the client to access them.
It is an accident that family lawyers are dealing with finance and parenting arrangements during family breakdown. So we have to be quite humble about the power of our roles.
Research does show that clients prefer independent financial advice and having their own independent lawyer. But I think there will be a day when couples enter the separation process through a variety of services and that family lawyers really should not to take it for granted that they are necessarily the best person to deal with every aspect of the divorce process, or that they should be the natural gatekeepers to divorce.”
If you would like to find out more about how the divorce mediation process, please contact Kim Beatson by phone for a no-obligation conversation on 020 7940 4011 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.