I believe that there is a better way to help our clients than pushing them down the traditional court route which can exacerbate conflict and polarise those involved in what is already a difficult time. When there are children involved this can make it harder to move forward as a family and build a respectful co-parenting relationship. Collaborative law and family mediation encourage a separating couple to sit down face to face and find a way forward for their families together, be it arrangements for children or financial matters.

In any process that requires you to resolve sometimes sensitive or emotional issues face to face you are going to hit points of conflict.  Often one party or the other is feeling very raw and may need the opportunity to talk about how they are feeling.  Handing the decisions over to a third party, such as a judge or arbitrator, may be tempting.  Sitting down with your ex can be a daunting prospect or you may think that there is no way they are going to listen to your point of view.  There is however help available from family consultants and if you take control of the decisions yourself you are far more likely to reach a solution that suits the family as a whole.

A family consultant doesn’t act as a relationship therapist, although many have a therapeutic background. They are there to help you process and manage your separation in a constructive manner. They are neutral and offer emotional support to the process as a whole, rather than just one party.  They have the skills required to navigate roadblocks in the negotiation process and can help everyone in the room to understand the dynamics and different perspectives.

One very helpful role that family consultants can fill is to help parents discuss their children.  Your lawyer or a mediator can help you with this, but often the areas of concern are not legal and a family consultant’s skill set is more suited to the task. They can help you to agree the best way to tell the children of your separation and how to help them cope with the changes in their life. A family consultant can help you to develop a co-parenting plan that addresses the practical issues that will affect your family after separation. Now is the time to lay the ground work to maintaining a positive co-parenting relationship for the future.

A family consultant will prepare you for the mediation or collaborative process so that you know what to expect. Any areas of concern can be addressed beforehand in a sensitive way, before your chosen process starts, so that you are able to communicate effectively.

A family consultant can help you to equip yourself to talk about the separation so that you are in the best place to make decisions that may have a long reaching impact on your life and those of your children.  Using a family consultant can prove cost effective as your lawyers can concentrate on the legal aspects of your case knowing that you are fully supported.  You will be able to focus and work efficiently with your lawyer without emotional dynamics clouding your judgement.  Anecdotal evidence suggests that having the assistance of a family consultant can cut down on the number of mediation sessions or collaborative meetings needed to reach an agreement.

For more information on collaborative law and mediation generally check out our blogs on ‘collaborative law – a kinder divorce‘ and ‘the benefits of mediation through separation.

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