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Collaboration vs the Courts by David Hodgson

Throughout my career I have seen a marked decline in court efficiency. Since the withdrawal of Legal Aid from all but a small number of family cases there has been a noticeable increase in unrepresented litigants. This coupled with a lack of government funding has put the courts under increased pressure. In recent years the Covid pandemic made matters even worse and saw the courts having to prioritise certain cases above others which were simply put on the back burner.

Whilst the court system is evolving and striving to make things more efficient problems still exist. A recent push has been the development of an online portal but to enable the system to function the push is gradual and it may take years to reach its full potential.

Unless you are a regular court user such problems are often overlooked. Particularly by those who find themselves in a legal arena where they have never ventured before.

People often look to the court as their salvation, where they find justice, efficiency, and vindication. The reality is very different.

In family matters the powers that the courts have are very blunt which are not best suited to dealing with sensitive and often intricate issues. Courts simply do not have the time that many people feel their issues and their lives deserve.

Engaging representation in court proceedings is also a very costly exercise. Gone are the days that you are given a court date and you can be rest assured that your case will be heard on that date. Lawyers are finding that hearings are being cancelled at the very last minute due to judicial unavailability which not only adds further delay in what is already a lengthy process but affects their clients financially. Costs will have been occurred in engaging a barrister for the abortive hearing or at least in preparing for it, which puts individuals substantially out of pocket.

Family law has long since viewed the court as a last resort and over recent years developed several alternatives to court. Whilst the court still has its place, many of these alternatives also now offer an answer to many of the problems practitioners currently face with the inefficiency of the court system.

Those who find themselves having a family law issue, whether this relates to financial matters or children, should consider all alternatives that are available to them at the outset. Choosing the right process is often something that is easily overlooked but its importance cannot be overstated.

Collaborative law is one such alternative which allows for support and legal advice to be provided throughout. Clients own the process and tailor it to their needs in terms of timing and the issues to be addressed. Options are considered and explored. Experts are brought into the process to assist, depending on the issues involved. Such expertise and guidance along with a commitment to the process, allows for the very best outcomes for a family or couple to be achieved.

If you wish to know more about the collaborative process please contact me or any other pod member.

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