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Family lawyers need to adapt to changing legal world, research reveals
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Family lawyers are not adapting quickly enough to the changing legal environment and need to collaborate more with other professionals to help clients through the distress of a divorce, according to new research by Mills & Reeve.
The family legal market has changed dramatically in recent years with the abolition of legal aid for most divorce cases and subsequent increase in so-called 'litigants in person' resulting in the clogging up of the already creaking family law courts.
Despite the changing landscape, the survey of more than 100 professionals working in the family arena including financial advisers, counsellors and therapists, found that 71 per cent believe family lawyers are not adapting fast enough.
The survey also found that 80 per cent believe very few law firms are actively working with other professionals, and 65 per cent claimed there is a resistance amongst family lawyers to working in collaboration with others.
Two-thirds of the respondents put the resistance down to the lack of understanding of what other professionals can bring to the process.
Alison Bull, Partner family team at Manchester office, said:
'For many years we have involved counsellors at an early stage in the divorce process. We have found that this has helped clients to make informed decisions about the next steps and how best to resolve their differences.
We have also found that involving counsellors in meetings with clients in mediation and the collaborative family law process can help manage emotional distress and conflict, and so achieve a quicker and more cost-effective outcome for clients. Further, we recommend that when clients have to step on to what is often the emotionally and financially expensive treadmill of litigation, they have emotional and psychological support as well as legal support.'
The family legal arena has also seen a change in the law that requires the majority of couples to attend a mediation information and assessment meeting.
The survey found that 70 per cent of family professionals believe people are more satisfied at the end of a divorce if they have been through mediation or collaborative law instead of litigation.
'A key question for many people who are setting out on the divorce process is how they will look back on the process in years to come and, if children are involved, how they will make sure they put their children first. Mediation and collaborative family law enable people to take decisions for their family without an expensive and unnecessary court fight, and without risking an uncertain outcome. An infographic of the survey results is available to download here.
Many of our clients who have been through the mediation and collaborative processes feel that they will be able to look back on the divorce with respect for themselves and respect for their former spouse. Perhaps most importantly, they tend to feel more optimistic for the future, especially in terms of continuing to parent their children.'
This news item was originally published on the Mills & Reeve website.