My Blog

My blog is meant to inform but its primary purpose is not to be informative. It is about the law but it is not solely about the law but also about those places the law does not go. The law is the platform from which I dive. My blog is about my opinions but is not primarily about my opinions since I often temper these to the subject matter on hand, not to mention the imagined audience. Quite often when I open a subject which is related to the law for discussion, I find myself in a place I never meant to be, or to go, as if the subject takes on a life of its own. I write articles based on what I do for a living, and I am a family lawyer, but of course that is not all I am. I find that when I engage with a subject, and use writing to express my thoughts, that quite often the journey is more interesting than the end and that what I thought I was writing about is not what I wrote about at all. This seems to me to be a metaphor for life. I write, therefore, to throw some light into the dark, to increase my understanding and by extension hopefully, other people’s understanding of what often seems incomprehensible, to enliven the dull so my spirit does not sag and to throw some humour at what is often deeply sad so that I can, or maybe, dare I say hopefully, “we”, can gain perspective. I doubt I succeed but the effort is honest.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

What to do ????- The breakdown of a marriage or a relationship?

The breakdown of a marriage or a relationship is highly traumatic for everyone involved, the parties, their children, their relations and their friends. As a life event it can be compared with death in the way it affects us catapulting us onto an emotional roller coaster that can have us rocking between disbelief, anger, sadness and many other emotions for many months. It is important to be aware of this and to understand that it is totally normal in the circumstances that you are in and there is nothing abnormal about you at all. At this time it will be very hard to think straight about what you want to do and how you are going to do it. There will be hard decisions to be made about children, where will they live and how will we structure time spent with them, about money, and about property to mention some of the possible decisions that need to be made. You will feel overcome by it all and angry that you are in this position at all. This leaflet is designed to help you clarify your thoughts on some of the matters awaiting your decision but it is not meant to take the place of legal advice and you should seek that as soon as you are able.
What are my options? There are a number of ways to sort out your family matters. I have listed them below with a short explanation of each:
Solicitor Negotiated Separation Agreement
Two firms of solicitors representing each of you hammer out a deal by telephone conversations, correspondence and maybe a meeting to finalise. The manner of negotiation will be adversarial in style. It generally starts with correspondence which sets out each side’s position in styles ranging from openly aggressive to detached professional. Once the positions are established, one side generally suggests that an attempt be made to negotiate by suggesting a meeting or putting forward a proposal. Each side will then try and get the better deal for their client by inflating or deflating their positions until a deal is arrived at. The cost of this way of resolving your family situation varies widely as sometimes a deal can be obtained relatively quickly and sometimes it can many months. Costs calculations are largely made up of a combination of time and effort spent on your case.
Collaborated Family Law Settlement
Collaboration is a relatively new way of resolving family disputes. To work in this way your solicitor must be specifically trained. To find out who is trained you should access the website of the Association of Collaborative Practitioners ( Collaborative Solicitors will work in a team- like way with both of you. First of all you will meet with your own solicitor and spend some time with him/her discussing how this process works and deciding if it is suitable for you. Then if everyone is comfortable, you and your partner/spouse will come together with your respective solicitors for a series of round table meetings. In between times the solicitors will meet with each other and with each of you to establish your needs and the needs of your family moving forward so that solutions can be arrived at. This way of working is non-adversarial and solution orientated. Bargaining is on the basis of each of your needs rather than by taking a stance or position. It aims to preserve civility and respect between you allowing for productive future communication. This has enormous benefit where children are concerned or where there are extensive family networks, friendships or work relationships that must be preserved. Collaboration is a cost effective way of working both emotionally and financially.

Mediated Family Settlement
A mediator is appointed by both of you to help you to resolve matters. The mediator must be neutral and does not give advice. The mediators job is to ensure that both of you get means and opportunity to be heard by each other and to establish your requirements going forward. This process enables both of you to arrive at solutions to your difficulties. Mediators are specifically trained in the art of mediation but they may come from varied walks of life. Many solicitors are now mediators . The important thing here is to establish that your mediator is an accredited member of the Irish Mediators Institute.
Court Hearing
This is also referred as litigation. It is expensive and is generally not family friendly. The process of going to court very often gives rise to belligerent correspondence which inflames rather than dampens emotions. The court process tends to be long drawn out. These factors can make this a very hard road for children who are often in the background rather than the foreground of their parents’ concerns during this period. Judicial Separations or Divorces must be dealt with by the Circuit Court. The District Court can deal with maintenance matters, issues concerning children and domestic violence. Property, inheritance matters, pensions, insurances and any other issues involved in a separation will be dealt with by either the Circuit or the High Court.
Selecting a Solicitor

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