Divorce is tough. But choosing a collaborative lawyer to help you through the process can make a significant difference to what is an understandably emotional experience.
As one divorcee, who had first used a traditional family solicitor – and found tensions between him and his wife rapidly rising – before switching to a collaborative lawyer, recently explained: “With negotiation between the four of us, and some compromise, a settlement was agreed.
“The meeting was one of the most emotionally draining days of my life but had I embarked on the collaborative process from the start, much of the misunderstanding and the stress may not have happened.
“We are fortunate that once we embarked on the collaborative process, we were able to bring things to a speedy conclusion.”
So, what exactly is the collaborative approach to divorce?
Collaborative law offers a way for divorcing or separating couples to work together as a team, face to face, with trained professionals to resolve disputes respectfully, without going to court.
Each client has the support, advice and guidance of his or her own lawyer as well as the opportunity to work with an independent financial advisor, a family consultant, a child specialist or an accountant if needed.
Many people think that all divorce lawyers are the same but this is far from true.
Here at Wards Solicitors we have lawyers who specialise in collaborative family law. It is always worth checking before instructing a lawyer as not all firms offer collaboratively trained specialists.
The clients and their lawyers all sign a contract, called a Participation Agreement, stating a commitment to resolve issues without going to court. This prevents lawyers involved in the collaborative process from doing so if discussions break down.
This means that everyone is absolutely committed to finding the best solutions by agreement, rather than through court proceedings.
How does it work?
- You and your partner each choose a specialist collaborative family lawyer;
- Your lawyer discusses with you, during an introductory meeting, whether your case is suitable for this process;
- You and your lawyer meet your partner and their lawyer to sign a Participation Agreement. This sets out the ground rules and stipulates that if either client commences court proceedings, both lawyers must cease to act and both clients have to find new lawyers to take them through that court process;
- Underpinning the collaborative process is an understanding that you and your partner (and your respective lawyers) will act in good faith in all of your dealings with one another and respect the fact that differences may need to be expressed to achieve a fair settlement;
- The majority of the negotiations will take place at what are called ‘four way meetings’, where you, your partner and both lawyers will meet to discuss all of the issues. Having everyone present ensures that you and your partner retain control of the process and the scope for misunderstandings is reduced;
- Discussions take place in a non-confrontational manner, which is particularly important if you are parenting children together;
- The meetings are logged and action points for future meetings are agreed upon;
- You have the opportunity to meet with your lawyer separately to discuss issues that have arisen and further issues that still have to be addressed;
- There is no letter writing to address issues, these are all dealt with face-to-face at the meetings. This is a very effective way of ensuring that any and all areas of the process are discussed openly;
- Once agreement is reached, the lawyers can draw up an agreed document that can then be submitted to the court for approval. You and your partner will not need to attend court throughout this whole process.
Get in touch
For more information and advice about what to do if you considering a divorce, please get in touch with our Wards Solicitors Family Law and Divorce team. Or click here to book an initial meeting.
Our Family Law page here has further information on divorce and frequently asked questions.