Divorce – What lessons can we learn from Adele’s new album ’30’?
Adele’s much awaited new album ’30’, which was written during her divorce, is due to be released on 19 November 2021, following the release of the song ‘Easy on me’. Adele shares a statement in which she confesses that she spent many nights ‘sobbing and consumed with grief’ as she struggled to come to terms with the breakdown of her marriage – the inspiration behind her new album.
The swathe of emotions that Adele refers to is far from unusual and time is often the best healer. However, the manner in which matters are handled can have a dramatic impact on the way in which everyone involved can move on. Many separated couples jump to the conclusion that if they cannot reach an agreement directly their only option is to go to court. While divorce / dissolution is never easy, there are ways to try and make it as amicable as possible.
It has been reported that Adele and her former husband, Simon, attended mediation to help them reach a financial settlement and arrangements for their son, Angelo. Many separated couples may have heard of mediation but do not necessarily understand exactly what it involves, or know the other options available.
Nowadays there are several different ways to try and reach an agreement upon divorce / dissolution. A short summary of the main options is set out below:
- voluntary negotiations – this involves direct negotiations between the former couple or via their solicitors. It can be a complex process and if the former couple are negotiating directly it would be sensible for each of them to have ‘safety check’ meetings with their solicitor at the outset and at times throughout the process to ensure they understand their rights and that the agreement made is legally binding;
- mediation – this involves the appointment of a neutral and impartial third party (the mediator) who helps the couple reach a negotiated solution to the family dispute. The mediator does not have any authority to impose a decision. Instead, the mediator helps to facilitate discussions, identifies potential solutions and assists the couple to reach their own informed decisions. There is now a growing trend for hybrid mediation. This model is based on fundamental mediation principles, but lawyers, where appointed, have a more direct and constructive role in the process;
- collaborative law – under this process, the former couple appoint their own collaboratively trained lawyer and the parties and their respective lawyers all meet together to try and work things out. There is also the ability to involve third parties such as financial advisers or family consultants to assist with negotiations. A key feature is that if the process breaks down, both parties must instruct new lawyers so there is a strong incentive for everyone to strive towards reaching an agreement;
- arbitration – the parties agree to appoint an arbitrator (usually a barrister or retired judge), who will make a decision that will be final and legally binding. This is similar to court proceedings but can be tailored to what they require. It is typically swifter and more cost-effective than court proceedings; and
- court proceedings – this should usually be seen as a last resort. It is a high pressure environment, time consuming and responsibility for the decision is transferred to a third party. However, court proceedings are necessary in some instances where for example there has been non-disclosure, attempts to hide assets or non-engagement.
Within court proceedings there are various options the parties can consider which gives them some control over the process and usually minimises delay:
- private financial dispute resolution hearing – where the parties pay privately for a barrister or retired judge to sit as the judge for the purpose of an FDR. This means the parties can choose their judge and it usually saves time and money; and
- early neutral evaluation – this is where a neutral third party (often a judge) evaluates the parties’ case at an early stage and expresses a preliminary view on it.
The various options should not be viewed in isolation and can be tailored to best suit the former couple’s needs and that of their family. Choosing the right option at the beginning can save money, time and conflict.