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Less combative ways to resolve matrimonial disputes

I wish to provide an additional perspective and alternative avenue to families caught in matrimonial disputes ("Protecting children caught in divorce"; last Sunday).

Let me begin with a scenario in a court setting: Party A breaks down in tears, describing vividly details of Party B's (the spouse) trysts with a lover. In rebuttal, Party B mounts an arsenal of allegations, claiming that Party A had neglected the family while being preoccupied with work.

A divorce on the grounds that the marriage has broken down irretrievably is granted. Their child is now faced with new childcare and living arrangements.

More often than not, parties who are conflicted in divorce proceedings cannot agree on various issues and will eventually expose themselves to more cost, stress and acrimony in the process of inviting the court's adjudication.

Is there an alternative solution?

The answer is yes. Collaborative family practice (CFP), an interest- based approach to negotiations dealing with matrimonial disputes, involves specially trained CFP lawyers and other family specialists assisting parties to reach an agreement that suits the needs of all.

Compared with "traditional" litigation in court, parties of matrimonial disputes will stand to benefit from CFP because of its less confrontational and non-existent tactical approach. There is also a greater likelihood of parties maintaining a civil relationship, which is crucial where children are involved. Other attractive points of CFP include confidentiality of the process and the rule that CFP lawyers cannot represent their clients in future litigation if settlement is not reached.

Parties who choose an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process, such as CFP, as a first step rather than the combative litigation route, display a mindset of managing conflict.

With that as a starting point before a writ for divorce is filed, it is my hope that more divorcing couples turn to various ADR options such as CFP and mediation to resolve their marital issues.

This will be the foundation of facilitating successful co-parenting in a reorganised family structure.

A change in mindset, a motivation to raise a generation better than ourselves and a goal to strengthen the fabric of society by reducing conflict can start where the objective of a less painful divorce process for the family can be realised before proceedings are commenced - a goal supported by our family justice system.

Michelle Woodworth (Ms)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 13, 2016, with the headline 'Less combative ways to resolve matrimonial disputes'. Print Edition | Subscribe