The Collaborative Law approach is becoming increasingly popular for couples seeking divorce. Family Law expert, Sarah Finnis, a trained Collaborative Lawyer explains why.
Court is not the only option and seeing a family solicitor does not mean that you will be obliged to embark on acrimonious court proceedings. There are alternatives and along with mediation or arbitration, Collaborative Law is a frequently used option for divorcing couples.
What is Collaborative Law?
In the Collaborative Law process, both parties instruct family solicitors who are specifically trained as Collaborative family lawyers. The emphasis is to work together in an attempt to achieve a resolution for the benefit of the family. Family lawyers in a collaborative case are less restricted in their dealings with the other lawyer than would normally be the case.
What are the benefits of the Collaborative Law process?
One of the significant benefits of the Collaborative process is that it is not driven by a timetable imposed by a court. The process can be built around an individual family’s timetable and priorities as the meetings will follow an agenda which is set by the couple themselves.
Often, mention is made of the Collaborative process being far less expensive than court litigation, which is true. A further clear advantage is that it can avoid the stress of litigation as it does not involve an acrimonious court hearing, which will not be productive for a cooperative future, particularly in terms of co-parenting.
In addition, a collaboratively trained Family Lawyer will be an expert in Family Law. By adopting the Collaborative process, as the process is in the control of the parties involved and not led by the Court, lawyers can think more constructively and with imagination to reach an equitable solution. Clients often will want to ensure that they can separate with dignity and Collaborative Law enables an amicable approach to be taken to reach a settlement that is fair for the whole family.
How does the Collaborative process work?
With a Collaborative team approach all parties sign an agreement at the outset which commits to the Collaborative process. This then prevents the lawyers continuing to represent their client in court if the process breaks down, ensuring that those in the Collaborative process are absolutely committed to achieving the best solution from the outset.
If a settlement cannot be reached through the Collaborative process, then the Collaborative Lawyers must drop out and the parties have to instruct fresh lawyers for any court case that follows.
The process itself takes place through a series of round table meetings with lawyers being present and with correspondence between solicitors being kept to a minimum. Each person has the support of their own lawyer to guide and advise them and there may also be the opportunity to work with an independent financial advisor, family consultant, therapist, child specialist or accountant to provide specialist assistance and advice as necessary.
It may be that only a couple of meetings are needed or at most 4 or 5. Once an agreement is reached, then the lawyers can ensure that a binding agreement is put into effect by obtaining a Consent Order from the Court, where needed. Often Collaborative cases can achieve a settlement within a considerably shorter time frame than court proceedings.
Is Collaborative Law the right choice for me?
The absolute focus in Collaborative Law is reaching an agreement that is best for the family that the parties reach themselves and which is not imposed by a judge.
As a Family Lawyer, I want a good outcome for the families involved. The Collaborative process allows creativity with the control of the financial settlement being firmly in the hands of the parties and their Collaborative Lawyers. At times the meetings can be difficult and emotional but the focus is on reaching solutions. The goal is to achieve a fair result while retaining ability to build on a cooperative relationship in the future as a separated couple.
Not every divorce needs to go to court and Collaborative Law may not be the right approach for every family but what is important is that all options are considered so an informed decision can be taken.
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Sarah is Head of Family Law at Girlings and has been a Resolution accredited specialist in Collaborative Law for over a decade. She is also an accredited specialist in financial remedies and children’s law. For further advice on whether Collaborative Law is right for you contact Sarah.
Girlings has offices in Ashford, Canterbury and Herne Bay