I recall the morning I opened the curtains in the living room and saw Peter Andre standing in my front garden. I hadn’t been drinking (it was only 8am!) but I still had to do a double take. It was indeed the man himself, all geared up to film an episode of one of those home makeover programmes at my immediate neighbour’s house. Turning from a 40 something lawyer into a giddy school girl didn’t take long but amidst my dribbling, what I really wanted to ask him (but couldn’t!) was how on earth, after a high profile split from one of the most famous women in the country, there was an apparent lack of hostility and mud-slinging in the tabloids and their divorce and all the arrangements that would have arisen from that seemed to avoid the court process - at least on a contested basis. It may be the case that the financial arrangements and arrangements for the children were negotiated through solicitors but it may also be the case that Peter and Katie attended mediation or another form of what is known as Alternative Dispute Resolution.
Mediation is a very useful and effective way for parties to a separation to discuss issues between themselves with the assistance and guidance of a qualified, impartial mediator. It is voluntary and confidential and can be a much more cost effective way of resolving issues. It has also become much more common - not least because its use (or an attempt to do so) has, save in exceptional circumstances, become a requirement prior to issuing any applications in the family courts. If mediation is successful, certainly when dealing with financial/property issues, it will still be necessary to instruct a solicitor to prepare paperwork to ensure that the agreement reached is a binding one but it will avoid the potentially hackle-raising, ping-pong correspondence between solicitors whilst trying to bash out an agreement. That’s not to say by instructing a solicitor that’s what you are letting yourself in for. As members of Resolution, our family lawyers are committed to dealing with matters in a non-confrontational, constructive way. Basically, not all lawyers are Rottweilers - whatever the Daily Mail has to say about us!
Ideally, clients should have an initial meeting with a lawyer in order to find out where they stand, to explore whether mediation (or any other form of dispute resolution) is appropriate for them and what they then need to be concentrating on within mediation. Most solicitors, including ourselves, are able to offer that initial consultation on a fixed fee basis. It is helpful to then discuss what is taking place during mediation with the lawyer so that they remain engaged throughout and can quickly deal with any issues which arise and which may otherwise cause the mediation to break down.
I often say to clients that it much better for them to reach an agreement between them rather than potentially have a Judge impose something which neither of them can live with. I can’t imagine that being involved in contested court proceedings appears on anyone’s bucket list. They are to be avoided unless there is absolutely no alternative. In fact very few of the family cases that we deal with here at QualitySolicitors Amphlett Lissimore end up being determined by a court rather than agreed some way along the line and we are very proud of that fact.
So however Peter and Katie dealt with the issues that arose from their separation, they managed it and both have gone on to remarry. I do wonder though if my neighbours have got used to their new wallpaper as yet - must ask them! Oh, and just to prove it..........