By Dr Roy Van den Brink-Budgen

In many instances, the most effective way to resolve a divorce or separation dispute involving children and finance is to use family mediation. The head of the ASM Plus family team, Austin Chessell is an accomplished family mediator and, as is demonstrated in one of our recent blogs he gets results and saves his clients considerable sums of time and money.

However, mediation is not for everyone and in some instances paying for a sequence of between two and five sessions might not be the best use of limited financial resources. Mediation is generally very effective and does indeed have a 90% success rate but sometimes divorcing or separating couples or possibly those involved in a family company or probate dispute are simply not ready for it and may need a helping hand.

Accordingly, as part of an organisation that is committed to providing an excellent all-round service, the ASM Plus divorce strategist, Suzy Miller offers her unique service which is provided free of charge to ASM clients. Suzy will spend half an hour or so with an individual client and explain not only the processes that go with divorce and separation but also what the pitfalls are and how they can best be avoided – in short, she gently but clearly explains the realities of separation and divorce and helps people to both prepare themselves and help themselves.

A short time spent with Suzy can pave the way to a successful sequence of time-saving, cost-effective mediation sessions. It may be that the professional help they need would be better provided by an accountant or properly qualified financial adviser who would be able to help fill in the blanks and ensure that any agreement reached was both financially viable and tax efficient – if so, they can very easily be signposted to an appropriately qualified professional.

ASM Plus also recognises that divorce and separation is not all about conflict and quarrels. In many instances, people recognise that their relationship has come to an end and, pragmatically may want to work with their ex-partner to ensure that things are resolved as quickly as possible.

For such people who may be quite capable of looking through their finances and may only require minimal level of help, we offer the option of a one-off facilitated meeting. In the course of such a meeting, a couple or those involved in some other type of family dispute will be assisted by a facilitator and will talk through the options. Given that there may be some legal input as well, this one-off meeting may be sufficient for basic heads of agreement to be outlined. There may be no need for any further sessions and a separating or divorcing couple may be able to move on even more quickly than had they mediated.

Even in such circumstances, it is not necessarily all “plain sailing” and it is here that Roy’s Critical Thinking expertise comes into play, not least in circumstances where the parties have an idea of the outcome that they want but not quite sure how to achieve it. In some instances, even where they have availed themselves of Suzy Miller’s input, people focus on what they see as the all-important “legal solution” when in practice they need to focus on how to manage their finances to best effect and on day-to-day practicalities such as childcare and educational issues. Entirely understandably, they may be rather too concerned about who is, or who is not, at fault or be rather too focused on things that may be important to them but that in the scheme of things, an unbiased outsider would not regard as being top priority.

Rather than “being advised” or “told” what is in their best interests, people often need help with addressing the issues themselves and ensuring that they focus on the essentials. Roy and the other ASM associates who provide our facilitated meeting service are very well placed to help people to address these issues and to ensure that they do not lose sight of the “bigger picture”.

The significance of such input should never be underestimated. Critical Thinking input really can “unlock the mind” and pave the way for an economically viable, effective and, above all, just and fair settlement. One discussion may well be enough and of course, the time and thousands of pounds that can be saved can be put to better use than would otherwise have been the case.

It should be stressed that with or without Critical Thinking facilitated meetings are not offered as some sort of cut-price option or some sort of streamlined mediation service. Accordingly, at an early point, we will advise as to which option we think is appropriate.