It will often be wise to consider counselling first.
2.1 Personal Counselling
The organisation Relate offers advice, relationship counselling, sex therapy, workshops, mediation, consultations and support face-to-face, by phone and through it’s website, www.relate.org.uk.
A first port of call may sensibly be your own GP who will help to decide whether counselling may help. The GP may be able to help generally with the trauma caused by relationship breakdown and can consider whether any form of medical assistance might also be advisable.
Private counsellors are listed in Yellow Pages. Your local Citizens’ Advice Bureau may also have numbers.
A counsellor may help to put matters into perspective, help to find a way forward and to rationalise unresolved feelings and emotions.
Many areas have organisations for divorced and separated couples to meet. Support from people having undergone similar experiences is available from such groups.
2.2 Couples Counselling
It may be that both you and your partner feel that, although in difficulties, your relationship has not broken down irretrievably. Couples counselling such as that offered by RELATE helps couples to identify areas of unhappiness and dissatisfaction and to work on plans for improvement. The aim here is to help to save the relationship.
On the other hand, if it becomes apparent that the relationship has broken down beyond repair counselling can also assist in smoothing the path and enabling couples to deal with the consequences in a calmer, more reassured and less hostile way.
2.3 Ways to sort out Problems
2.3.1 Between Yourselves
Your personal relationship is a private matter. If you should choose to live apart, for example to give yourselves space, that is a private matter between you. If you should decide to resolve such matters as what will happen to the children or the finances in your own way then there is nothing to stop you agreeing between yourselves. If you want any financial arrangements to be legally binding and enforceable then you would be wise to take separate (independent) legal advice.
This is an alternative means of resolving a dispute between two people. The aim is to assist people in talking together to find common ground and agreement. In these discussions a trained Mediator assists the parties in trying to find a mutually acceptable resolution to differences usually about children or finances. The parties have to be prepared to talk together in a room with the help of the Mediator. The eventual understanding arrived at is not legally binding . The Mediator does not make a decision for the parties. Nor does the Mediator give legal advice. The role of the Mediator is to facilitate discussions and to help the parties to come to their own agreement. The parties will be referred to their own Solicitors e.g. at the end of the process to receive advice and to formalize agreed arrangements.
Mediation is available through a variety of organizations. Some legal firms have Solicitors who are also trained mediators.
Can give legal advice on your rights and potential entitlements and give guidance on the likely range of outcomes.
Can inform you of the remedies available.
Can negotiate to help you to reach an agreement which is acceptable to you and help you guard against any pitfalls.
Can help you to formalize any agreement by e.g. a Deed or an agreed Court Order.
Can make application to the Court to ask the Court to resolve any disputed issues and to make a final Order.
IF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR A SOLICITOR BEAR IN MIND TWO THINGS:
1. A Solicitor with the expertise and the right approach
The Law Society has laid down guidelines for the conduct of family matters and those guidelines are endorsed by Resolution. In order to ensure that your chosen legal adviser follows and supports this code of good practice seek a Solicitor who is a member of the Resolution. The Law Society also have a Family Law Panel and if your Solicitor is a member then he or she will have to have satisfied the Law Society as to a level of expertise in the field of Family work.
2. Can I get help with my legal fees – Legal Help/Funding?
Not all firms these days are able to offer Legal Help and Funding – formerly known as Legal Aid. A Solicitors’ firm has first to meet stringent quality tests to qualify for and to hold an exclusive contract with the Legal Services Commission before they can advise and assist you under the public funding scheme. Your Solicitor should consider with you whether you are entitled to such help even if your Solicitor is not able to provide publicly funded advice himself. The Citizens Advice Bureau will hold a list of the firms who can offer this Legal Help. If you are eligible then either you may not have to pay for your Solicitor’s fees or you may receive some financial help towards them depending on your circumstances.
2.3.4 Do’s and Don’ts on Separation
Remember that although you may no longer be together you will always both be the children’s parents – put the children first
Keep the door open to dialogue
Substitute politeness if love is gone
Be aware of the positive benefits of counselling in helping you to cope with your changing relationship with your partner
Be ready to compromise – an agreement between you is more likely to work than an Order imposed by the Court
Tolerate threats or violence – ask your Solicitor how the law can help protect you
Sign or agree to anything without speaking to your Solicitor first
Let your partner undermine your confidence in your Solicitor
Expect the best of your partner or of yourself – aspire to reasonableness
Leave confidential documents where they can be found