Separation or divorce are emotionally draining and could also be financially draining if the case went to court. However, from 1st April 2013, changes to the legal aid system mean that legal aid will rarely be available for private family law cases, including child contact arrangements and divorce. As such, couples wishing to go to court will have to pay the legal costs themselves. Andrew Stout, a family lawyer at Tallents Solicitors, offers a practical alternative to costly court proceedings – mediation. Says Andrew:

“Since April 2011, greater numbers of divorcing couples have been using mediation to reach fair agreements between themselves. Rather than resorting to expensive and lengthy court cases, couples used the services of an impartial mediator to resolve their issues.

“Mediation is a less acrimonious way to resolve disputes as both parties retain control over the process. Going to court can be both time-consuming and very expensive but mediation allows couples to work towards a fair agreement, which suits both them and their children.”

The Ministry of Justice has released figures which show that the average cost of resolving property and finance disputes is approximately £500 through mediation, compared with £4,000 for issues settled through the courts. Additionally, the average time for a mediated case to be resolved is 110 days compared to 435 days for non-mediated cases. Andrew comments:

“Private mediation offers a quicker, simpler and more efficient way for separating or divorcing couples to agree on how to divide their assets or arrange child contact without involving the courts.”

Andrew qualified as a solicitor in 1991 and has worked as a Family, Criminal and Personal Injury lawyer, specialising in family law for 14 years. He also has expertise in dealing with the separation of cohabiting couples. As a member of the Law Society’s Children Panel Andrew is qualified to represent children in care proceedings and is not only a Resolution trained mediator, but also a Resolution Accredited Family Law Specialist. Resolution members are committed to the constructive resolution of family disputes with a non-confrontational approach to family problems. Andrew continues:

“During mediation, I listen and try to understand all of the issues involved so I can help parents and other family members communicate effectively and resolve their conflicts to achieve a resolution which is best for all.”

Andrew also has a specialism in Public Law proceedings, which include the representation of parents and children in Applications by Social Service for Care and Supervision Orders, and subsequent adoption proceedings. Andrew finishes:

“At a very emotional time, I always work hard to help my clients reach an agreement that is fair for both sides, and any children who might be involved. If I can help my clients understand each other’s needs and communicate effectively then we can often find a quicker and cheaper solution to costly court proceedings.”