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Only half of people would consider a non-court solution if divorcing

Public concerns are based on a ‘worrying lack of awareness’, says Resolution

There is "patchy understanding" and "ill-founded scepticism" about alternatives to going to court during break-ups according to a new poll commissioned by Resolution. The problem is "exacerbated" by recent cuts to legal aid, meaning that "fewer couples have access to free legal advice, and so fewer people are being directed by solicitors towards solutions other than court."

This, says Resolution, is despite the fact that, for many couples, avoiding a lengthy courtroom battle can reduce stress and can result in significant financial savings. In fact it is estimated that over 115,000 people each year could save money and stress during relationship break ups if they are made fully aware of all their options.

The ComRes poll of over 4,000 British adults found that:

Liz Edwards, Chair of Resolution, said:

"Today's findings uncover a worrying lack of awareness about the options available to couples who are going through break-ups.  There is at best a patchy understanding about non-court based solutions that often prove less stressful and less expensive than a lengthy courtroom battle. There is also ill-founded scepticism about the legality of non-court solutions – a myth that we need to urgently bust.

"This is understandable to a certain extent. People don't think about these issues or where to go for advice until they are faced with the prospect of break-up. But everyone – Government, the profession and individuals - has to do their bit to ensure the right information is out there and people going through a break-up are aware of their options.

"For some couples, court is the only option; but for the vast majority there are other, more suitable solutions which make the difficult process of break-up that much less stressful. This year's Family Dispute Resolution Week is designed to address this lack of understanding."

Resolution says that statistics compiled by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) published in September 2013 show that the number of couples attending out-of-court sessions to resolve family disputes since cuts to legal aid were introduced in April 2013 have already fallen by nearly 40%. Between May and September 2012, there were 5,983 publicly-funded mediation cases started – in the equivalent period in 2013, after the cuts, there were 3,651 – a drop of 39%.

Despite scepticism about non-court based solutions the polling found that half (50%) of respondents agreed that these methods of divorce and separation are better for the wellbeing of children. Of those British adults who say that they have ever been separated or divorced, the polling finds that more than two-fifths (44%) say they there were children in the household when the break-up occurred.

The polling was commissioned as part of Family Dispute Resolution Week (25th-29th November 2013) during which Resolution is launching a new advice guide, providing more information about the options available for couples going through separation or divorce. This guide can be downloaded here.

As part of the survey respondents were also asked about a series of 'Christmas Stress Factors'. It found that more than 40% of people find the Christmas season "very stressful" while one in three (33%) say they "just want the Christmas season to be over as soon as possible". The findings also show that festive stress increases "significantly" for couples who have ever been  divorced or separated: