Surge in no-fault divorce awareness a chance to keep more cases out of court
A family-run Scottish law firm is setting its sights on becoming the country’s leading provider of mediation services as its third solicitor achieves accredited status with a further entering training.
With awareness of no fault divorces surging after England and Wales followed Scotland in changing separation laws, long-established Gibson Kerr expects demand for mediation to accelerate.
Mediation is a voluntary process in which a trained, impartial mediator assists separating couples to discuss how disputed issues can be resolved amicably, with the aim of avoiding litigation as a result.
Fiona Rasmusen, Partner and Head of Family Law, said: “We have seen a steady but consistent growth in demand for mediation over the years, with more people taking the opportunity to stay away from the courtroom. We only see demand heading in one direction.
“As a result we’ve chosen to invest more than ever before in our family law team. Soon, four of our six lawyers will be accredited mediators, while we’ve seen more of the team accredited in Child Law and achieving qualifications including trauma informed practice.
“While we’ve had a different form of no-fault divorce in place for a while, the surge in publicity south of the border has only served as a catalyst for conversations. While mediation can be an option for all manner of separations it is naturally suited to couples that have simply grown apart.”
The push for its family law team to become increasingly qualified across a range of areas follows a number of key appointments and promotions in early 2022, as part of an ambitious expansion plan.
Karen Wylie, 41, joined the firm as a Senior Associate in January and is the latest family lawyer to become accredited in mediation.
She said: “My passion for mediation has grown so much since starting the training with CALM Scotland.
“One of the first lessons we received is that it isn’t suitable for everyone. But I fundamentally believe that more couples could have gone down this route, as ultimately, separation doesn’t always have to be a battle.
“By its nature it is a heated, stressful situation and communication becomes fraught very quickly, so the mediator’s role is a neutral one and simply, to help the participants better communicate with one another. Their role is to help, not to solve. Good communication is vital and as a mediator we know that actively listening and choice of words matter in trying to reduce conflict.
“Mediating a solution can provide more certainty than going into court. Of course, in the situation of a highly distressing issue such as domestic abuse, there is often no other option than going straight into litigation.”
“Slowly attitudes towards alternative dispute resolution and mediation are changing. This way of resolving disputes should not be ‘alternative’ but should be an integrated part of the dispute resolution process. The more amicable a divorce settlement can be, the better for everyone, particularly children.”
She added: “The training provided by CALM Scotland has provided me with a great foundation. I am keen to facilitate as many mediations as I can. Every mediation a mediator takes part in informs their practice, as every session is situational and there is always something to learn.”
Gibson Kerr dates back more than 100 years and was acquired by Partners Scott and Fiona Rasmusen in 2005. Fiona is Head of Family Law, Partner Lindsay Maclean, who joined the firm in 2007, is Head of Personal Law, and the Property team is headed by Beverley Cottrell.
Karen Sutherland will be the fourth solicitor at the firm to undergo mediation training, joining Fiona, Karen and Legal Director, Nadine Martin.