By now you’ve probably heard the news about the end of legal aid. If you’re planning on separating from your partner – whether it’s related to financial or children issues – you’ll no longer be able to qualify. But there are exceptions...
The Government may have stopped legal aid for most circumstances, but it’s still available in Family Law cases where there have been extreme violence or care proceedings. You can also qualify if you plan to settle outside of court through mediation.
For some time, it’s been open to judges to refer couples to mediation before issuing court proceedings. With the courts becoming busier these days, judges may decide to use this option more often. It’s also been anticipated that mediation before court proceedings regarding children or family finances will be made compulsory from April 2014.
There are only a few firms in Hull that offer mediation as a way of settling family disputes. At Gosschalks, we have a team of mediators. And we have the necessary legal aid qualification.
This involves visiting a mediator to try to solve your disagreement outside of court.
Mediators aren’t judges. They don’t make decisions on your behalf. They’re there to help you reach and agree on a settlement yourself. A good mediator will be able to suggest options that you’ve not even thought of. And advise you on the possible actions a judge may take in court.
Before you start mediation, the mediator will meet with you both (either together or separately) to make sure you’re comfortable with going through the process. They also need to establish that there’s no imbalance between both parties.
It’s the mediator’s job to make sure all relevant facts are disclosed. In financial disputes, this often means both parties providing all necessary financial documents.
Any disagreement can be settled by mediation. And it’s not unusual for couples to reach an agreement after one or two hour-long meetings. Of course, the more complex disputes will need a number of sessions. But compared to having separate representation in court, mediation is a much cheaper alternative.
Are there any other options?
If mediation isn’t for you, then collaborative law may be the right approach. It’s also designed to settle disagreements without the need to go through court.
Hull has a number of collaborative lawyers. You can find them all on the Hull & East Yorkshire Collaborative Family Law Group website. To get an idea of what mediation and collaborative law are all about, watch the group’s YouTube video here.
Although it’s not covered by legal aid, collaborative law is still usually cheaper than going to court. Unlike mediators, collaborative lawyers are actively engaged in making decisions from the outset. They work together on a round table basis to agree on a fair outcome. Experienced collaborative lawyers can also advise you on what actions a judge may take if your case ends up going through court.
You can also pay fixed fees
Read our Family Law Fixed Fee Guide here to find out more.