1st Oct 2018

Taking a step into the great unknown

Marking Collaborative Family Law Week 2018, Berwins’ top rated family law team is exploring what journeying through the separation process can mean for separating couples.

"I don't know why I'm here" - No, this isn’t an introduction to some psychological theory or search for the meaning of life, but how a new client began his session with me today.  He was very specific, but it struck me that it’s a lot of people’s starting position, even if not articulated in quite such a striking way. For most, the divorce process is a step into the great unknown.

Even after 22 years as a family lawyer, I’ve never lost my awareness of what it takes to come and see a lawyer or mediator for the first time. Another couple I’m working with currently said, “We’ve been in the ‘trying’ stage for years. We both know deep down we’d be better apart, but we have a lot of shared history - so I get scared about making this real and I change my mind yes-no-yes again.”

So ‘why are you here?’; or in other words what can you expect when you first see your Collaborative lawyer or mediator?  You will have lots of queries, some worries about what might happen or things you’ve heard when other people talked about their divorce.  They’re all likely to be clambering for space in your head, rather than a neat list. So your lawyer will listen and give you a chance to ask all those ‘silly questions’. We can debunk some of the mystery and explain what options there are in separating, what are the typical timescales, what are the best arrangements for children and what sort of things do you need to think about money-wise. We won’t get all your queries sewn up in one meeting, but we will start to formulate a plan of how we can help you get from where you are now to where you might want to be.

I say ‘might’ quite deliberately. It’s not our job to rush you on or pigeonhole you into a divorce. You can be curious and take your time to think about what it would look like if you did this or that. Be sure that Collaborative lawyer is the person you want to work with.  Potentially tough times ahead so take time in this stage and get off to the right start.

Sarah Smith is a leading family lawyer and mediator. She is the only solicitor ranked as an “Eminent Practitioner” in industry guide Chambers and Partners and has been supporting separating couples for over 20 years.

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