Wilson SCJ highlights importance of collaborative family law

Supreme Court Justice Lord Wilson has reaffirmed his commitment to collaborative family law and other non-court methods while slamming the Government’s plans to cut legal aid, which he called a “false economy”. 

Speaking at the relaunch of Collaborative Family Law at The Reform Club, Wilson SCJ suggested that only a fraction of family disputes require judicial intervention, and that a vast majority of private family disputes can, and should, be settled out of court.

Among Wilson SCJ’s main arguments against judicial intervention were the delays in final hearings and the uncertainty of outcomes, which he said depended on the performances of the witnesses and their advocates on the day of the hearing.

Wilson SCJ also cited the possibility of press intrusion in certain cases where the public has an interest, which could result in assiduous reporting.

The culmination of these factors contribute to an emotional burden cast upon the parties who, at the time of embarking on court proceedings, cannot fully appreciate the “sickening unpleasantness of being locked in battle,” Wilson SCJ stressed.

Praising collaborative law, Wilson SCJ said that much still needed to improve and evolve but that, in most cases, the various mechanisms of dispute resolution much better serve the interests of parties than judicial intervention.

Collaborative Family Law is a group of 56 lawyers, barristers and QCs who provide collaborative law, mediation, lawyer supported mediation, private judging and, from the early part of next year, family arbitration.  

All members are fellows of the International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers – a worldwide network of specialists in divorce and family law, as well as being trained as collaborative lawyers.

Commenting on the re-launch, Manches family partner James Stewart said: “We’ve now lived with the experience of widespread family breakdown for a generation – as the Family Justice Review has recognised, the time is ripe for a fresh approach. 

”Collaborative law draws a line under the destructive approach of the past and is a powerful tool which enables clients to adopt a practical, cost effective and child centred approach to divorce.”

David Norgrove’s Family Justice Review, which was published in early November (3 November 2011) recommended the establishment of an online information hub and helpline to give support to couples and help them resolve issues following divorce or separation outside Court. 

The new website can be found here.