Is it really over?

At CFLP, we understand that the end of a marriage, civil partnership or long-term relationship is rarely cut-and-dried. No matter what has happened between the two of you, there is usually a period of uncertainty during which you have a choice about what comes next. Should you try to mend the relationship, or is it beyond resurrection? How painful and distressing would it be to try to get things back on track, compared to the process of separation and divorce?

It should go without saying that a good family lawyer will not try to push you into any course of action, but we are aware that our profession doesn’t always have the best of reputations and so we will say it anyway. Family lawyers who are affiliated to the organisation Resolution, as we are, are focused on getting the best outcome for you and your family at the least emotional and financial cost. In some cases, the best outcome will be a reconciliation, and we will aim sensitively to explore the possibility of that with you before you take any steps in a particular direction. (There’s actually a technical legal obligation on us to investigate the likelihood of getting back together before you file for divorce, and to tell the court in a standard form that we have done so.) Obviously in some cases it is otiose to second-guess a client’s decision, but we are experienced and sensible enough to be able to take our cues from you. We understand it’s one of the biggest decisions you will ever make, and we want you to be sure you’re doing the right thing before you move forward.

Seeing a family lawyer when you’re not yet sure that your marriage is over could be considered counter-intuitive, or too big a step to take, but actually we do see lots of people in that situation, just for a one-off chat about options. In fact, when you’re sitting on the fence, the more you know about what’s on the other side, the better informed you are when you make a decision either way.

Our first meetings with people tend to be about what the process of divorce entails, and how it could be arranged with the minimum of stress, cost and intrusion. We will usually also talk about how to minimise the impact on any children and what arrangements might be made for them, and discuss possible financial outcomes if you can give us information about your financial situation. Once you’ve heard all that, there’s no pressure from us to come back. We’re always happy to point you in the direction of people who can support you, or both of you, in the decisions you face. Needless to say, whatever you tell us is completely confidential.

In Cambridge, and indeed all over the country, we are fortunate to have access to Relate, the charity which celebrates its 75th birthday this month and assists people through relationship problems. But that’s not all they do: as well as couple counselling to try to get a relationship back on track, they also do separation counselling which focuses on helping both people come to terms with a split, sex therapy, family counselling and parental support, and work with young people. Relate counsellors can see couples or families together, separately or individually. It’s open to all, regardless of race, religious belief, sexual orientation or disability, and charges fees on a sliding scale based on ability to pay. It also has an excellent central website with useful pointers for communication, and a live chat function.

Relate helps many thousands of people each year to make the right decisions about their families’ futures. If it helps to understand a bit more about what happens during a session, and what Relate is all about, the Guardian featured one couple’s story last weekend, and included a transcript of part of their session. It’s a good, quick read that really gives a flavour of what Relate stands for and the way it works.

Of course Relate isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and it isn’t the only organisation that offers couples and individuals this sort of help. Many counsellors and therapists in private practice are also experienced at working with couples, and you may be able to find someone in your area who can assist you via a recommendation from a friend or from your GP. Wherever you go, the point is that there are plenty of trained and skilled professionals out there that can help you decide which path is the right one.

Nobody takes the end of a relationship lightly. You have our assurance that we won’t, either, and nor should any of our Resolution-badged fellow family lawyers. If you’d like to talk to us about anything in confidence, you can call Adam, Gail, Sue or Simon on 01223 443333.

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