Consensus Collaboration Scotland, a network of lawyers, family consultants and financial experts specialising in out of court divorce settlements using a technique known as “Collaborative Practice,” say divorcing Scots couples may be paying more than they need to for their divorce, because of a lack of awareness of more cost effective options open to them, such as mediation or the collaborative process.
Denise Laverty, Legal Director at Gilson Gray Solicitors and member of Consensus Collaboration Scotland, said:
“Collaborative divorce, where lawyers, financial experts and family consultants help couples to resolve financial and/or child related matters outside of court, is popular because it is usually cheaper and allows a couple to maintain some degree of control of the outcome . Once you can agree on the financial aspects of your separation, and if you either have no children or your children are over the age of 16, you can apply for a simplified divorce procedure through the Scottish Courts website. This costs as little as £125 compared to upwards of £25,000 for a court action.
However not all lawyers are collaboratively trained and not all clients are made aware of mediation or the collaborative process as an alternative to court action. As a result, many couples become embroiled in lengthy and expensive negotiations through solicitors, or one party has to rely on unreasonable behaviour allegations to raise a court action. For some couples, this is the only way to resolve their differences, but many may unnecessarily find themselves in this position due to lack of awareness of the alternatives.
The good news is that more Scots lawyers are undertaking the collaborative training programme which will improve access to collaboratively trained family lawyers. As an organisation, Consensus Collaboration Scotland are actively raising awareness of this method of resolving issues relating to separation. We currently have 150 member law firms trained in collaborative practice, but there is still a lot of work to be done. There are still areas across Scotland where a couple will have to travel to be able to find a collaborative lawyer.”
According to the latest Civil Justice figures published by the Scottish Government in April 2019,
61% of Scots use the simplified procedure to get divorced. The simplified procedure is only
available to couples who have already resolved their financial matters outside of court and have no children under the age of 16. If financial matters are resolved but there are children under the age of 16, then an undefended divorce can be applied for. This costs more than a simplified divorce but still considerably less than having everything contested in court.
The latest statistics for 2017-2018 period show that the total number of divorces granted in Scotland in 2017-18 was 6,873, 13% fewer than in 2016-17 (7,938). Divorce rates in Scotland have been on a gradual decline since 1985, where divorce rate were nearer to 14,000. The widely accepted view is that lower divorce rates reflect lower marriage rates, as more Scots choose other options such as cohabitation or civil partnerships.
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The information and opinions contained in this blog are for information only. They are not intended to constitute advice and should not be relied upon or considered as a replacement for advice. Before acting on any of the information contained in this blog, please seek specific advice from Gilson Gray.