Couple arguing over a childArticle by Wayne Lynn, partner. First published in The Journal newspaper and online.


Family lawyers have long sought to move away from the “traditional” adversarial approach with separating families, which often involves bitterness, acrimony, and increased legal costs.

Children are all too often caught up in arguments between divorcing parents, lasting well after separation. The impact on children can be devastating. Divided loyalties cause misery if children can’t enjoy time spent with each parent without feeling guilty. Some end up believing they are responsible for the breakdown of their parents’ marriage.

Managing the divorce process is difficult, but a good family lawyer can offer support and robust advice when needed most. Most couples prefer to resolve matters without the stress and expense of court proceedings. Good family lawyers are sensitive to the needs of their clients and can help to secure the desired outcome with minimum argument.

Unfortunately English law still operates a “fault-based” divorce system, which require allegations of adultery or unreasonable behaviour to be included in a divorce petition. This can increase acrimony, particularly where one party feels the need to make inflammatory comments in order to obtain a divorce.

“No fault” divorce legislation is currently going through Parliament. But given the current situation with Brexit and the possibility of a general election, it is unclear as to whether the bill will be passed into legislation any time soon. However, in my experience, whilst the law is in desperate need of reform, these tricky hurdles can be overcome with sensitive handing.

Alternative solutions to court include:

  • Mediation, where the couple can discuss the issues that matter to them and resolve them together with the assistance of a neutral mediator.
  • Collaborative law, where the couple and their respective lawyers undertake a series of meetings to negotiate and resolve outstanding issues.
  • A three-way meeting, where the couple do not actually meet face-to-face but are assisted by the lawyers in negotiating with a view to reaching an agreement.

Even within the court process, attending court can be avoided if early agreement can be reached. The terms of any financial agreement can be recorded and a judge invited to approve the agreement, without having to go to court.

Courts will only make an order setting out children’s living arrangements where that is needed in the child’s best interests. And these will usually allow parents to make their own arrangements rather than the court imposing something different. However, it is recommended that parents have a clear and unambiguous understanding of those arrangements, to avoid problems in future.

Even if court proceedings are necessary, good family lawyers can look at the issues, discuss with their client and then look at constructive solutions, rather than get caught up in the “blame game”.

For discrete legal advice from leading UK lawyers, contact Silk Family Law online or call +44 (0) 191 500 0777.