No family disagreement should be dealt with by the court -- it's a terrifying experience
Published 29/03/2011 | 05:00
Natalie Butler (48), Bray, Co Wicklow
"Our marriage broke down in early 2004. We'd actually been together for about five years, but were married for around two and a half years of that.
"We'd been in relationship counselling for some months, on and off, but it was not successful and the marriage broke down.
"Some time later we consulted the Family Mediation Service in an effort to agree custody arrangements for our child and to try to improve our working relationship so as to be able to resolve the various issues which had arisen as a result of the split.
"Eventually we ended up in the hands of solicitors, and we were in and out of court a lot over issues.
"Court was an expensive process. It cost hundreds of euro and in the end I started to represent myself in court because I couldn't afford to pay a solicitor all the time.
"I found the court system to be a very difficult process. It can be quite humiliating for you when somebody who doesn't know you at all makes decisions about your life, but that's the way we had to go.
"I learned a lot about family law when I was representing myself in court.
"I got my divorce in the spring of 2010. In the meantime I'd been made redundant and I was eligible for legal aid, which was a help. I was quite glad to hand the responsibility back to the solicitors by that stage.
"The entire process of divorce took about five years. We were told that we had to be separated for four out of the five previous years before we could apply for a divorce, so it was a long wait before the real process started.
"The actual divorce was an anti-climax -- I was waiting for five years and it was suddenly over in a few minutes.
"I think now that no family disagreement should be dealt with by the courts -- it's quite a terrifying experience. You don't know what to expect and it's very intimidating.