Collaborative law is a new way of approaching divorce and family law problems and is specifically designed to help families deal with their disputes swiftly, efficiently and without bitterness. It is a relatively new discipline but it can have fantastic results. We are big fans of the whole collaborative law concept – but whilst it works brilliantly for many couples, it is not suitable for everyone.
What is Collaborative Law?
Collaborative law involves both parties involved in any family law dispute (especially divorce) meeting face to face, with their solicitors present, rather than endlessly exchanging correspondence through solicitors by phone, e-mail or letter as they might have done otherwise. Each party appoints their own solicitor so that they have someone to advise them when taking part in negotiations.
Often, using collaborative law such as this can help couples getting divorced avoid the need to go to court to resolve their disputes.
Collaborative law – how does it work?
First, you need to decide whether collaborative law is the right option for you. You will normally meet with a specially trained and accredited collaborative law solicitor to discuss your options, and your spouse is likely to do the same with their solicitor as it is essential that you both agree to this approach.
Once you have decided to go ahead with collaborative law, a ‘four way’ meeting will be arranged. They are known as ‘four way’ meetings because they involve four people: you and your solicitor, and your spouse and their solicitor. Before the first meeting, your solicitor will prepare you so you know what will happen. The two solicitors will also normally speak to each other to plan the agenda for the first meeting. In relation to financial disputes surrounding divorce, this preparation requires full and complete disclosure by each party of their financial means in writing prior to the meeting.
At the meeting
When you attend the meeting, the solicitors should explain to you that you are making a commitment to resolve your differences with the other party without going to court. It is important that you are completely on board with the process as you will need to sign an agreement stating that you are happy with the arrangement. Not only that, you need to be aware that both solicitors involved in the collaborative law process will also guarantee that should the case remain unresolved through the collaborative law process and need to go to court, they will drop out and you will both need to appoint new firms of solicitors. This helpfully commits not only you but also both your respective divorce solicitors to reach an agreed settlement without the need to apply to court.
You and your spouse will have an opportunity to raise issues of concern to you that will be discussed at subsequent meetings. This may relate to concerns over your finances, arrangements for your children or anything else that is relevant to your divorce.
At future meetings
Depending on how many issues there are to resolve, you might only need a couple of meetings to resolve your differences, while other people might need more. At future four way meetings, you will have the chance to raise issues of concern to you.
As well as making arrangements for things such as the care of your children and how you are going to split your finances, you might also be able to get some other professionals involved. For instance, if you wanted advice on what to do about your pensions or if you were worried your children were taking the split badly and you wanted specialist advice on the matter, you could raise this in your meeting. Again, if you need financial advice from an IFA, you will need to appoint one who is also specially trained in collaborative law process and who understands exactly how this works.
At the last meeting, you will have to sign documents stating the terms of the agreements you have made. A timetable for implementation will be drawn up and your solicitors will explain anything you might need to do to help with the implementation.
In terms of how long the collaborative process takes, it varies from case to case. You will probably find that you are able to resolve things considerably quicker than you would if you went to court.
Contact our Collaborative Law Solicitors today
We are so committed to collaborative law, that two of our divorce team are fully accredited and trained collaborative lawyers.
If you want to know more about collaborative law and how it could help you, call one of our offices today and ask to speak to one of our collaborative law divorce solicitors.
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