Divorce cases that involve disagreements about children are often described as “difficult”. Emotions run high; at a local level the judiciary may have to fall upon its own judgement when asked to choose one suitable option above others. Bitterness, heartache and large legal bills can result. Is there another way? I think so.
The majority of children cases relate to the practical arrangements of what happens to their children following the breakdown of a marriage or parental relationship. As Head of the Children’s Department at Stowe Family Law, I have been involved in a number of cases in which one or both parents have asked the court to intervene. Sometimes there are issues that concern child protection; other cases feature styles of parenting that are no longer considered acceptable after a relationship’s failure. The majority of cases concern the practical arrangements and the frequency and duration of the time each parent spends with the children. It is this latter category that has caused me growing concern over the past few years.
The pressures under which the local judiciary operates have not helped. A case scheduled for its first, second or even third appearance may only be listed for a quarter of an hour. Judges are asked to make rigorous, reasoned decisions quickly – and yet some of these cases feature complexities that stretch back years. There may not be time to facilitate a fragile agreement when everyone feels so rushed.
The other difficulty is that too much pressure is placed on parents to sort out their own problems. In some cases, this is simply too much to ask.
Conciliation hearings have made regular appearances in the London courts for several years now. I am delighted that a conciliation hearing scheme is now up and running in Leeds, where a number of our clients are based, and also hope that the scheme will be extended to Manchester so that our north west clients can benefit too.
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For more information, contact the Law Offices of Renee M. Marcelle at (415) 456-4444, or online at http://www.familylawmarin.com/