If you ask any solicitor what they would rather deal with - a client with a financial dispute or a client with a parenting issue, most will answer the former.
Whilst adjudication for financial disputes has been around for many years, and can be a better option than going to court, adjudication for parenting issues is just being set up. Simply put, deciding on financial matters is usually easier.
A house can be sold and the equity divided equally. Not so easy to sell a child, let alone divide it in half! There is more case law and guidelines around financial orders than parenting. The CSA have a calculation on child maintenance, but there is no such thing for working out a shared parenting calculation.
How does a judge decide whether it is in the child’s best interest to spend two nights or three nights with the non-resident parent? It is far easier to say a pension must be shared 60/40 than a human being with thoughts, feelings and concerns.
A judge could hear a whole case on a parenting matter, have Caffcass report on the situation and listen to both parents succinctly explain their points of view and then decide not to make an order at all, as it might not be in the child’s best interests…imagine that scenario on a financial dispute!
More separating couples are choosing to share responsibility on a 50 / 50 basis as work becomes more flexible, but whist 50/50 is the starting point for a financial dispute, this ‘yardstick of equality’ is not so easy to apply in parenting matters.
I have had several clients come to me to say they have been told to sort out the parenting issues through mediation, but not to discuss any finances with us. Another client actually came to the mediation session with an agreement drafted by their solicitor asking the other party to release £50,000 equity from the house for their ‘war chest’, before stating she wanted to sort out the parenting arrangements over Christmas. Mediation did not go so well on that case!
The fact of the matter is that the Government, judiciary and most solicitors know that for the majority of cases, resolving your issues around parenting or finances is best done outside of court with the benefit of good legal advice.
There are, of course, always exceptions to this and that is where the lawyers and solicitors really come into their own, protecting children, victims of domestic abuse or helping vulnerable clients. For everyone else we recommend mediation or a chat with your local Divorce Friend Expert. We love helping clients resolve issues, whether financial or parenting or both.
Alistair Carter is founder of Divorce Friend, Surrey Mediation Service and Hampshire Family Mediation and has assisted over 1000 clients divorce or separate amicably. You can email him at Alistair@divorcefriend.co.uk or tweet @alistaircarter9