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Spending cuts will mean ‘chaos’ for courts, claims Chester lawyer

3rd September, 2010

GOVERNMENT spending cuts will lead to major delays in the courts system and could spell disaster for divorcing couples, a Chester-based family lawyer has warned.

Richard Barge, newly-appointed Head of Family at Aaron & Partners LLP, says proposed cutbacks in the Ministry of Justice – which unions predict could see 15,000 civil servants losing their jobs – would cause chaos within the region’s courts system.

He said: “The whole of the family justice system is already creaking badly under the weight of work within it.

Couples and families are currently experiencing unacceptable delays in getting their cases resolved. If the proposed cutbacks at the Ministry of Justice are carried out the loss of both front line and administrative staff would leave the courts system unable to cope.”

Mr Barge, who has recently joined Aaron & Partners and deals with all aspects of financial matters on divorce, added: “Justice delayed is justice denied and couples and children who are caught up in protracted proceedings will suffer if their cases are not resolved in a reasonable timescale. Private family law cases will, I fear, be very much at the bottom of the list of court priorities.”

An emerging US-style alternative to court proceedings, known as collaborative law, is becoming increasingly popular across the North West and North Wales.

In contrast to traditional dispute resolution via the courts, collaborative law allows all parties to set the agenda in relation to the issues to be determined, the timescales, costs and the speed of the discussions. This is backed by a firm commitment not to back out of the process without facing sanctions.

There is growing dissatisfaction among divorcing and separating couples at their lack of control over what is often one of the most important events of their lives”, said Mr Barge, who qualified as a collaborative lawyer in 2005.

Collaborative law provides couples with that control and a chance to resolve the practical aspects of their separation with dignity and respect. Every single meeting is face to face with the couple and their lawyers sitting around the table. This gives clients the opportunity they deserve to sort matters out.”

The hope among collaborative lawyers is that as awareness grows in the wider public, the courts will become increasingly “no go” areas for separating and divorcing couples. Mr Barge added: “The process is far from a soft option. There will be points during the process when it becomes very tough. However, the end results for couples are overwhelmingly positive and both parties will feel as if they themselves have worked out the solutions for their own individual problems. That sense of achievement cannot be under-estimated.” Richard can be contacted on 01244 405443 or via email here

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