Why collaborative family law can be the “Marriage Story” tonic

by Chris Fairbairn

Monday, March 16th, 2020

Hollywood has a tendency to turn divorce lawyers into compelling villains. Gibson Kerr’s Head of Family Law, Fiona Rasmusen, looks into depictions of divorce – and reveals an alternative process that could stem misery for Scottish families.

Gibson Kerr's Head of Family Law Fiona Rasmusen | Legal PR in Scotland

ANYBODY who has watched the recent movie, ’Marriage Story’ could be forgiven for being put off ever engaging in divorce proceedings, whatever their situation.

 

Without giving too much away, as is so often the case, the lawyer acts as the catalyst in a race to the bottom, twisting a healthy post-split relationship into a nasty custody battle.

 

While there’s much to admire about the film, including stellar performances from Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver, Scottish viewers may be left questioning whether it is truly representative of the divorce process.

 

Thankfully, from first-hand perspective after 25 years in family law, I’d say broadly no.

 

To great effect the lawyers in Marriage Story play caricatures. From the dozy old pro counting down his days to exit, to Ray Liotta’s pinstripe-clad city-slicker.

 

However it’s Laura Dern’s portrayal that offends practitioners this side of the Atlantic most, with a needless pre-emptive escalation into conflict that is (thankfully) unreflective of the sector today.

 

The nature of divorce is the very reason it makes such captivating storylines. It is intensely personal, potentially distressing and highly emotive.

 

Of course there are difficult moments – and times when a lawyer must take a stand and fight for a client.

 

The key way in which this movie differs from reality is that, as family lawyers, our primary position is one of empathy. Above all else, we’re working with our clients towards an amicable civilised settlement, not making the situation more unpleasant.

 

Collaborative process – a silver bullet?

 

There has been quite a slow take up of this process in Scotland, likely due to a lack of awareness, however engaging in the collaborative process is an attractive option for anybody worried about an escalation into conflict.

 

It does two things. Firstly, rather than instruct a lawyer to act solely in the interests of their client, it allows them to sit around a table with the aim of reaching a fair solution.

 

Secondly – it takes the threat of court off the table entirely (provided an outcome is reached).

 

These two points change the dynamic dramatically, with solicitors as facilitators, and all financial information obtained during the process.

 

It’s worth bearing in mind that not all family lawyers are qualified to deliver collaborative family law – but many are – and it can result in a more harmonious process.

 

Is there a downside?

 

Unfortunately the collaborative process doesn’t offer a panacea for all separating couples. If it doesn’t work, the couple will be back to square one – with little to show for the time and effort.

 

While it is painful, going to court does provide a final decision. It can also be surprising just how straining even the collaborative process can be.

 

Regardless, separating couples in Scotland should take heart that there are options out there.

 

Divorce can sometimes mirror the Marriage Story plot – and while we can’t guarantee a fairy-tale ending, we can ensure Hollywood’s depiction of divorce lawyers remains entirely fictional.

 

About Gibson Kerr

 

Operating from two Edinburgh city centre locations and specialising in personal law, family law and property, Gibson Kerr is led by its three partners Scott and Fiona Rasmusen, and Lindsay Maclean.

 

Fiona is Head of Family Law, the Property team is headed by Scott, while Partner Lindsay, who joined the firm in 2007, is Head of Personal Law.

 

The team at Gibson Kerr understand that taking the first step in consulting a family lawyer can be daunting – and so offer a fixed fee of £225 for preliminary advice.

To book, simply call 0131 202 7516 – or fill out an online enquiry form via www.gibsonkerr.co.uk

 

Looking for Legal PR and thought leadership in Scotland?

The legal profession is one of Scotland’s most historically successful sectors – but one that has struggled to tell compelling stories to the wider community.

We can help you succeed in this space – and give you a competitive advantage. To learn more, call 0131 561 2244, or use the contact form below:

Your Name (required)

Your Email (required)

Subject

Your Message

 

 

 

Chris Fairbairn of Scottish public relations agency, Holyrood PR in Edinburgh

Chris Fairbairn

Chris Fairbairn is an Account Director with award-winning public relations agency Holyrood PR. He is part of an expert PR team delivering PR services to a wide range of clients from headquarters in Edinburgh, Scotland.

View Chris's Profile

Related Posts

So how can we help?

Meet the team

Meet the team

Our people

Meet the people who make Holyrood PR what it is, and get an insight into what makes them tick

Benefit from business video

Benefit from business video

Action!

Find out how affordable video can bring a host of benefits to your business.

Make an impact with PR photography

Make an impact with PR photography

Find out more

Every story can be told better with pictures. Discover our affordable, high-impact photo packages.

If you have any comments or questions, please contact us.

GET ON THE PRIORITY LIST

Keep ahead of your opposition by getting the free tips, insights and secrets we share for businesses. Straight to your inbox, every month.
Email address
First Name
Last Name