Experienced family lawyer and trained Collaborative Lawyer, Sarah Finnis explains why the Collaborative Divorce process is becoming increasingly popular with her clients as an alternative for achieving a settlement.
What is Collaborative Divorce?
Collaborative law is a highly effective way of resolving family disputes without the need to go to court. Meetings take place with you and your partner and specially trained collaborative lawyers. Each party appoints their own solicitor and instead of negotiations proceeding by letter or telephone, you meet your partner face to face in a ‘4 way meeting’ with your solicitors and work together to reach a solution that works best for your family. Essentially it is a form of Alternative Dispute Resolution for couples who are divorcing, who want to avoid going to court, and need expert legal representation.
The Collaborative Divorce process enables each party and their respective solicitors to sit together to discuss settlement. It is a private process and the parties have a joint commitment to avoid contested court proceedings and to reach a solution by agreement. Clients sign an agreement in advance of the process that they will not take the matter to court.
What are the benefits?
Collaborative law has many benefits:
Personal support for you and your family: You have the support of an experienced and trained collaborative lawyer who can guide you through the process every step of the way.In addition, other professional advisors can be introduced into the team to support you to advise on both financial and emotional issues such as accountants, independent financial advisors, valuers and family consultants.
Often a better long-term solution: You are more likely to stick to resolutions you have agreed to yourself and feel comfortable with a resolution that you have agreed rather than one imposed by a court.
A faster process: As the process is not driven by a timetable set by the court, it can be tailored to meet your own plans and priorities.
More cost-efficient: It can be significantly less expensive than divorce cases that progress to a final court hearing.
Less stressful: The ‘4 way’ meetings with your partner and your lawyer helps ease the conflict, helping you both reach the best solution for all involved, avoiding the stress and potential long term impact of court proceedings.
No need to go to court: Once an agreement has been reached it is a simple process. Your solicitors will draw up a document which is then submitted to court for approval with no need for you to attend.
Is a Collaborative Law approach the right solution for me?
Every individual client’s case is personal to them and Collaborative Divorce may not be the right fit for you. However, if you do choose this option, and providing you have a good Collaborative Lawyer, it is often the best way to achieve a positive result both financially and emotionally.
What other options are there?
Mediation and Arbitration offer other alternative to going to court:
Mediation: This option differs from Collaboration, in that both parties attend the meeting with the mediator without their solicitors.It is the mediator’s job to help the parties reach decisions by acting to keep a balance between them so that they can discuss things calmly. They do not offer legal advice but act as a neutral third party and their role is to facilitate discussion and improve communication to help the parties reach their own agreements amicably. Clients can often be nervous of attending mediation without the support of their solicitor.
Family Arbitration: This option is now available not only in relation to financial matters but also to resolve children matters. Matters are resolved by an arbitrator who sits very much like a judge to give a ruling. Arbitration can be a speedier, more flexible process than court and is a process which both parties have to agree to undertake.
Going to Court: This can still be the right option for some clients. When court proceedings are taken this does not bring necessarily halt negotiations. Negotiations can continue alongside the court process.
Expert advice on Collaborative Law and other options
Sarah Finnis is a trained Collaborative Family Lawyer. Resolution, (formerly the Solicitors Family Law Association) is responsible for training Collaborative Divorce lawyers who are bound by Resolution’s Ethical Standards for Collaborative Practitioners.