Roundtable event highlights ways to help couples divorce collaboratively and stay out of court

As part of its work to reduce damaging couple conflict, Tavistock Relationships hosted a Roundtable event (18 May 2022), looking at ways couples can be supported to work together to separate and divorce, without the need to turn to the family courts.

The online event, which was chaired by His Honour Martin Dancey and attended by judges, barristers and charities, featured speakers outlining ways for couples to work together in four key areas:

1.      Andrew Balfour, CEO of Tavistock Relationships;

2.      Alison Porter, Pennywise Consultants;

3.      Marcie Shaoul, The Co-Parent Way; and

4.      Samantha Woodham, co-founder of The Divorce Surgery.

At the event, Tavistock Relationships highlighted its new ‘Working Together Divorce & Separation Directory’, listing specialist organisations offering impartial support for couples who want to divorce collaboratively, and the need to make this information available to couples embarking on separation and divorce.

His Honour Martin Dancey, says:

"I was very pleased to be asked to chair this important webinar.  Our understanding of the harmful impact on children, of exposure to unresolved and enduring parental conflict, continues to increase.  And with it the imperative to put in place empowering and holistic solutions-based support for those separating parents who need that, rather than a disempowering adversarial process.  Tavistock Relationship's Working Together Divorce & Separation Directory is an important step in that direction."

Andrew Balfour, CEO of Tavistock Relationships, explains:

“Couple conflict is damaging to both parents and their children. Too many separating couples are ending up locked in conflict and turning to the family courts, because they can’t agree financial and childcare arrangements.

“Many couples want to work together, but are often set up from the start on a fractured and adversarial route, working against each other, rather than together towards a common goal. For most people, divorce is one of the most emotionally challenging experiences of their lives, with huge conflict and loss for everyone involved. 

“There are a range of organisations offering impartial separation and divorce support, to help couples to separate together, offering a less adversarial route to securing a settlement.  But there’s a lack of information about these services.  Our new ‘Working Together Divorce & Separation Directory’ aims to help separating couples find the help they need to manage the challenging process of divorce better, and help them to sustain a collaborative parenting relationship for the benefit of their children.”

Samantha Woodham, co-founder of The Divorce Surgery, adds:

“When seeking help to separate or divorce, couples are generally funnelled down two routes: to separate solicitors for legal advice; or to a shared mediator who is unable to give them legal advice. In cases where there are no safeguarding concerns, it is not generally in the best interests of children for their parents to seek recourse to the family court to address what are essentially emotional and relationship issues, rather than primarily legal ones.

“There are many specialist organisations which offer impartial support to couples to work together through divorce. For instance, couples can access joint co-parenting support, separation counselling, joint legal advice from a lawyer they share, joint financial advice, joint actuarial advice and emotional and professional psychological help. Some of these services will require payment, while others can be accessed for free.

“Ultimately it needs to become the default for couples to work together through divorce, rather than against each other.”

Alison Porter, Founder & Managing Director of Pennywise Consultants, says:

"With courts bursting at the seams, it has become more important than ever to encourage couples to resolve their issues and reach a fair settlement out of court, saving money, delay and un-necessary distress.

“With finances often being one of the biggest bones of contention, I feel it is very important to introduce external independent experts to help calm the waters with impartiality and help ease the process towards a swift conclusion.  On the financial side, these might include the instruction of wealth managers, IFAs, financial lifestyle analysts, pensions and property experts; one or more may be needed depending on the circumstances. 

“In our experience, clients are far more likely to settle on a financial agreement early if a third party has presented them with an impartial, reasoned and evidence based report.  The introduction of such independent experts, working in unison, is proven to help clients resolve their issues in a more timely, less expensive and amicable way."

Marcie Shaoul, Director of The Co-Parent Way, says:

"Ultimately, even if parents are separating, they are still parents. Enabling them to communicate with each other in a collaborative and non-confrontational way is key to ensuring that children are kept emotionally safe.

“We know the lasting impact that high-conflict separation has on children and as family law professionals, we have a responsibility to enable parents to access the support they need to remain a functioning parental unit. This new ‘Working Together Divorce & Separation Directory’ lists many options to help parents do that and is an important place to start."

To access Tavistock Relationships’ Working Together Divorce & Separation Directory, go to or call 020 7380 1960.