There are a number of ways to resolve family issues:

Court Proceedings

Sometimes court proceedings are necessary. Often, however, they can be avoided. The prospect of appearing before a Judge, uncertainty as to outcome and emotions running high can all mean that a trip to court is usually the last thing that people want. In fact, even when cases litigate, only a very small percentage end up in a final hearing before a Judge. The court puts in place a timetable for hearings but negotiations continue along the way. Looming court hearings and legal costs mean that these often result in a settlement. Many clients, however, feel out of control in this process and would like to avoid it if at all possible.

Voluntary Negotiations

This means that you are both represented by solicitors who resolve matters by negotiation through the exchange of letters and documents or in a meeting. If parties are on reasonably good terms and quite close to an agreement, this can work well. It can be quicker and cheaper than starting the court's timetable rolling and trying to negotiate along side. All discussions, however, are conducted against the backdrop of what the court would do if it went to court and this can lead to one or other of the parties digging their heels in. Where this happens or if one party is not willing to negotiate or for example, simply not ready to accept that the relationship is over, let alone deal with what happens next, the lack of a formal timetable can lead to delays, wasted legal fees and frustratingly slow progress.


There has been a great deal of press coverage about the increasing importance of mediation as a forum for resolving all issues on divorce or separation. Harriet Burge is a trained mediator and member of the Family Mediators Association. Mediation involves one trained mediator meeting with both clients in a neutral setting. The mediator remains impartial between the two clients throughout the process and calls on a range of skills and techniques to assist them to reach their preferred solutions whilst providing a wealth of detailed legal and practical information to assist them reality-test their ideas. It is voluntary process and one in which it is vital that both parties feel safe. Assessing which couples this might work best for is part of our experience and skill.

Collaborative Law

Collaborative family law has been practised in the USA and Canada since the early 1990s and was first introduced in the UK in September 2003. Harriet Burge has been a trained Collabrative lawyer since 2005. Each party retains a specialist collaborative family lawyer (who must be registered) to advise them throughout the process. Both parties and their lawyers sign a participation agreement stating that they will not go to court and that if either one changes their mind, both parties will have to hire new lawyers. This removes the Court as the backdrop to all negotiations and frees up the lawyers to help you achieve a more flexible and imaginative settlement. All negotiations take place round the table in a series of meetings as opposed to exchanging solicitors' correspondence. The collaborative process is not right for every case. For those it is, it can be quicker and cheaper than lengthy court proceedings although not necessarily in comparison to mediation or voluntary negotiation. The real advantage, however, is that it can make the process of divorce or separation less stressful and maximises the prospect of preserving what goodwill there may be between the parties. This can be invaluable,for example, if there are children as the need for both parties to cooperate in the job of parenting is likely to continue for many years to come.

Harriet Burge

Ranked in Chambers UK - 2015
Ranked in Chambers UK - 2014
Ranked in Chambers UK - 2013