Going through the breakdown of a relationship, whether you are married or cohabiting is always difficult - even more so if there are children involved. You will, hopefully, have the support of friends and family but you may also feel that you need professional help to get through this difficult time. But what kind of help do you need?
Traditionally, someone in your situation would seek the help and advice of a Solicitor who would advise about your position and your options, provide assistance by corresponding with your ex-partner or their Solicitors and, if necessary, arrange representation for you at Court.
This remains a good option and is still a sensible first step. Some Solicitors will offer an initial reduced fixed fee appointment to provide this initial advice and you could then decide how you wish to proceed.
If you feel that you need do need legal advice but would like to be able to sit down with your ex and legal representatives, then choosing a Collaborative Lawyer may be a sensible option. This lawyer will work with you, your partner and their lawyer by way of face to face meetings to seek to resolve any disputes without having to attend Court. Once an agreement is reached then it can be drafted into a formal agreement and signed by both of you or, depending on your particular situation, it may be possible to file this agreement at Court in the form of a Consent Order, which is then ratified by a Judge, without the need to actually attend Court yourselves. It is sensible to choose a Collaborative Lawyer who has undertaken a good quality Collaborative Law qualification.
Alternatively, you may feel that you do not need to, initially, involve Solicitors to resolve particular issues and you may be happy to speak directly to your ex partner with, perhaps, an independent Mediator to assist you. In that case you may choose to attend Mediation. A Mediator can assist you with issues arising from the breakdown of your relationship and relating to your children or relating to financial matters. A Mediator may be a Solicitor or Barrister or a lay person, with Mediation Qualifications.
Finally, you may decide to seek the advice of a Solicitor who can provide you with legal advice and support and discuss with you how best to move forward. It you choose a Solicitor then it is sensible to choose one who is a member of Resolution and will abide by its code to adopt a non-confrontational approach to resolving disputes.
It is sensible to ensure that whoever you choose is qualified to assist you and, whether you choose a Collaborative Lawyer, a Mediator or a Solicitor, then feel free to ask them about their qualifications and experience before you decide to go ahead. It is important to ensure that you have chosen someone who knows what they are doing and can support you properly.