In the week that marks the start of the busiest time of year for divorce lawyers, Judith Middleton, partner and family lawyer at Darlington law firm Latimer Hinks is urging separating couples in the region to seek a more amicable alternative to bitter divorce battles. Judith is regional spokesperson for family law group Resolution, which promotes a constructive and non-confrontational approach to separation and divorce, and is the organisation behind the advice. 7 January is widely regarded as the day on which most couples file for divorce. Evidence suggests that for many families, far from being a relaxing break, the Christmas holiday is a time of huge stress. Instead of fixing troubled relationships, it can be the final straw. Add to this the financial strain early January brings, the reality of returning to work, no let up on the cold weather and relationships can come under intolerable pressure. Judith said: Acrimonious breakdowns can have a devastating effect on families, especially on children, and should be avoided at all costs. An estimated one in three marriages end in divorce - a painful and often long-winded process with significant emotional and financial costs. Collaborative family law is a relatively new process that aims to reduce conflict. It offers an alternative to the traditional divorce process in which couples agree not to go to court and instead work out solutions together. More and more people are taking the collaborative approach and identify three key benefits; its a private process, its less contentious than going to court - and therefore less anxiety ridden - and the outcome is often fairer for both parties because they have reached it together. Whats more, it sends out remarkably positive signals to children who benefit hugely from knowing that their parents are working out their differences together.