As predicted, the first week back in January was busy with enquiries from potential new clients. As I've previously explained, January is a big month for divorce lawyers.
Over the course of the week, a definite trend started to emerge. On the one hand clients want and need legal advice, but on the other, many are concerned that getting lawyers involved will inevitably lead to spiralling costs and exacerbated tensions in an already fraught situation.
I have spent a great deal of time reassuring people that the image of family lawyers rubbing their hands in glee at the prospect of a nasty, drawn-out court action is now pretty outdated.
Those of us practising in the field of family law generally see the benefit of achieving a resolution in as amicable and non-confrontational a way as possible.
That is not to say that this can always be achieved. But adopting a more combative approach should, in my view, be reserved for times when all other options have been exhausted.
There are many choices available to clients who wish to deal constructively with issues arising out of relationship breakdown. Collaborative law is an increasingly popular approach, and mediation can also be of assistance to separating couples.
Legal advice is hugely important, not only to guarantee that the law is applied properly, but to ensure that the parties enter into any settlement with their eyes open and with a clear understanding of the legal context in which they are operating.
It is important to remember that the best outcome in these situations is not necessarily one which is based on a strict application of the legal principles, but rather one which both parties feel is fair and which they have made an informed decision to sign up to.
If you are facing a divorce and need advice, look for a lawyer who offers different options and can demonstrate to you an insight into what would be the best approach for your situation.
If you feel you're being shoe-horned into a vicious legal battle by your legal representation rather than your soon-to-be ex-spouse, you are probably right. Feel free to walk away and seek alternative counsel. There is no need to make January the start of an unnecessarily long and contentious process.