Couples risk increasing stress and costs due to lack of awareness of non-court based approaches to divorce

According to survey results published last week as part of Resolution’s Family Dispute Resolution Week, couples risk increasing the cost and stress of divorce because of a lack of awareness of the non-court based options available to them.

Resolution is the body which represents over six thousand family law professionals in England and Wales and of which we are members. Resolution’s survey shows that there is ‘patchy understanding’ and ‘ill-founded scepticism’ about the alternatives to going to court during divorce. According to Resolution, the problem has been further ‘exacerbated’ by recent cuts to the legal aid system, with the result that: “fewer couples have access to free legal advice, and so fewer people are being directed by solicitors towards solutions other than court.”

These survey results come despite the fact that for a significant number of couples, avoiding going to court would reduce stress and result in significant financial savings.

To sum up, the ComRes survey of over 4,000 British adults found that:

Half of those surveyed (51%) said they would consider using a non-court based approach if they were to divorce in the future.
Only 23% of British adults believe that non-court based approaches to divorce or separation will ‘make the terms of the separation clear to both parties’, showing an ‘ill-founded scepticism’ about the legality of non-court based methods.
Just 24% of British adults thought that a non-court based approach would ‘protect the rights of both parties’.
Just over half of those who responded to the survey (52%), said that they thought non-court based approaches to divorce and separation would be ‘better for the wellbeing of couples’.
Only 50% of respondents said that ‘non-court based methods of divorce or separation are better for the wellbeing of children.’

Responding to the findings of the survey, Liz Edwards, the Chair of Resolution, said: “Today’s findings uncover aworrying lack of awareness about the options available to couples who are going through break-ups. There is at best a patchy understanding about non-court based solutions that often prove less stressful and less expensive than a lengthy courtroom battle. There is also ill-founded scepticism about the legality of non-court solutions, a myth that we need to urgently bust.

This is understandable to a certain extent. People don’t think about these issues or where to go for advice until they are faced with the prospect of break-up. But everyone, Government, the profession and individuals – has to do their bit to ensure the right information is out there and people going through a break-up are aware of their options.

For some couples, court is the only option; but for the vast majority there are other, more suitable solutions which make the difficult process of break-up that much less stressful.”

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