A Refreshing Alternative To Going To Court by Sarah French

Working within the Human Resources industry means no day or case is ever the same. In this way, HR can be a little bit like family law lawyers. As HR professionals, we often become the confidant to our employees in all matters, sometimes literally providing the shoulder to cry on. Although it is not in the job description, supporting employees in all aspects of their life is becoming more and more common.

Sarah French, Associate at Moore Blatch LLP, is looking at family law from a different viewpoint and has come up with an alternative to going to court. But before we dive into her guest blog, let’s learn a little more about Sarah’s skills and specialities, in her own words.

About Sarah

“I am an associate in the family team. I represent individuals and couples who are facing relationship breakdown. I support clients who are either separating or divorcing. I help them resolve financial matters, and deal with disputes concerning their children – specifically how much time a child or children can spend with each parent.”

“I guide clients through the options available to them, helping find the best process and solutions for their circumstances. Wherever possible, I help clients avoid litigation. By adopting a constructive approach, I help minimise acrimony, delays in resolving issues, and costs. If there are significant disputes concerning finances and/or children, I act for clients in court proceedings or arbitration.”

So, Sarah What’s Your Alternative To Going To Court?

There are different ways we family law lawyers can suggest for helping to separate couples sort out their finances and/or children issues. One option is the collaborative process. This gives couples much more control over what will happen and is a good alternative to going to court.

The process involves the couple and their solicitors sitting around the table in so-called four-way meetings to discuss matters. Other professionals, such as a pension’s expert, an accountant and family consultant, can be brought into these meetings to make them five-way, six-way etc.

Everyone signs up to a participation agreement at the outset to confirm their commitment to the process, and confirming they will not make an application to the court to litigate matters. There is a vested interest on everyone’s part to resolve matters within the process as, if it breaks down, the couple has to start again with new lawyers.  It is very rare that the process breaks down as careful consideration is given to whether this process is appropriate beforehand.

A small group of collaborative lawyers and other professionals, me included, are now offering a more holistic model of the collaborative process which we have called Hampshire Family Legal Solutions.

This alternative to going to court model is based on teamwork, involving from the outset support for the couple in the three key areas: legal; financial; emotional and behavioural. We have an intake meeting for a fixed fee with each of the couple being able to meet with their lawyers, a family consultant and a financial consultant.  The needs of any children are very much in the forefront of our minds. Going forward, we can then put forward a bespoke proposal of how to resolve matters. This would usually be via meetings around the table, but other options can be suggested too if need be. Consideration can be given as to which professionals it would be helpful to have involved.

The intake meeting does not commit the couple to any process in particular but offers a useful opportunity for the couple and the other professionals to find out the issues and see what the best way forward is.

So far, five couples have used the intake process as an alternative to going to court and found it has helped them reach an agreement. The speed with which matters can be resolved using this model is attractive rather than enduring delays incurred by solicitors’ letters going backwards and forwards or waiting for the court to list a hearing.  It is possible to achieve a great deal sitting around a table with the right professionals providing assistance.

We are hoping this alternative to going to court will continue to gain momentum and assist more couples to achieve a fair outcome in an environment with the support they need. Please contact any of our members, as shown on the Morre Blatch website for further information.

Here at Kate Underwood HR, we think this sounds like a brilliant refreshing alternative to going to court. Thanks for being this month’s guest blogger, Sarah!

If you have any HR issues, please don’t hesitate to contact me on [email protected]


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