The festive season can be one of joy and celebration, but it can also be one of family upset and breakdown.

The pressures of Christmas can affect families in different ways. There are the money difficulties experienced by families who struggle to fund the cost of the celebrations and gifts; the difficulties of separated parents who both wish to spend quality time with their children over the holiday; and the parents whose time spent together over Christmas in a pressured and sometimes alcohol fuelled environment can lead to arguments and the conclusion that their new years resolution will be to get a divorce.  Others may have reached the conclusion that the relationship was over long before the Christmas period but delayed taking steps towards a divorce to spare their partner and/or their children the upset during the festive period.

It is for these reasons that January is commonly referred to as ‘divorce month’ and with England being commonly known as the ‘divorce capital of the world’ it can be a busy period for family law practitioners.

There are a number of non-Court based options available to couples considering divorce, such as mediation, collaborative law, and family law arbitration, all of which can be more cost effective and quicker than the costly and time consuming Court route. These options are also more likely to lead to an amicable divorce, which is particularly important for couples with children who wish to maintain a co-parenting relationship in the future.

However, research carried out by Resolution, a national organisation of over 6,500 family lawyers and other professions, as part of their Dispute Resolution week (25 – 29 November 2013) shows that of 4,000 British adults only 51% would consider a non-Court based solution and that only 24% of Respondents had confidence in mediation.

Following this research a new pledge, created by Resolution and made by the Family Justice Minister Lord McNally on 26 November 2013, has been announced to promote non-confrontational methods of solving family disputes by letting families know there are alternatives to court and encouraging families to talk to professionals to resolve their disputes.

With recent high profile cases such as Michelle and Scot Young, where the proceedings lasted 6 years and legal costs reached £6.4m, highlighting the ever increasing costs of battling bitter divorces through the Court system, and with Court fees set to rise significantly next year, it is now more important than ever to consider non-Court based options.