What is Collaborative law?
When couples decide to separate they can often be concerned about the prospect of going to court and the impact that it may have on their families, not to mention the expense. A more constructive alternative is the collaboration process where couples work with a team of lawyers to reach a settlement and resolve disputes arising out of divorce, without court involvement. Collaborative law is widely used in the United States and Canada and is becoming increasingly popular in the UK.
- The process is usually faster than going to court. It avoids timetables imposed by the courts and instead works to an agreed timetable established by the couple.
- Provides flexibilty so that the specific needs of each member of the family are considered in the final agreement.
- The collaborative process allows for more open communication, discussion and cooperation between the couple involved.
- Avoids the additional expense of a disputed court case.
- Greater privacy as all the issues remain private between the couple and their lawyers.
- The two lawyers engaged in collaboration are involved in the entire process and will draft and agree the final court order.
So how does it work? Each of you instruct your own solicitor, who is trained as a collaborative lawyer. Instead of negotiating through phone calls and letters, you meet together to try to work things out. When you first meet your lawyer he or she will go through your options with you, and you decide whether collaborative law is the option for you. If it is, your lawyer will explain the process to you and what you can expect. If your partner has not yet instructed a lawyer, you can discuss whether he or she is prepared to have a go at collaborative law.
Before the first meeting you and your lawyer will prepare. The lawyers will speak to each other directly to prepare for the first meeting. At the meeting you will each discuss your objectives and prepare an agenda for the next meeting. You might discuss arrangements for children, you might discuss a timetable for exchanging financial information, as the first step in financial negotiations. Your lawyer will be there to help put your case. The lawyers will go over the principles of collaborative law and everyone will sign a collaborative law agreement.
The lawyers will meet or talk to each other before each meeting to prepare. The issues will be discussed over a series of several meetings, usually at the office of one of the lawyers. This does mean one lawyer will need to travel to the meeting.
The discussions in the meetings are privileged and confidential. If the collaborative law process breaks down neither party would be allowed to refer to the discussions in later court proceedings. Neither party would be allowed to use the same lawyer as they used in the collaborative law process for court proceedings. This means that everyone can talk freely and suggest options and proposals.
When you come to an agreement on an issue the lawyers can share between them who will draft the documents and you can then go through the draft and agree a final version to be sent to court at a further meeting.
Are there any other alternatives?
Other alternatives are available such as:
- Solicitor to Solicitor negotiation
Newnham & Jordan Solicitors family lawyer is a member of Resolution, the national family lawyers organisation and can help you decide the best course of action to take if you have decided to separate.
Resolution is the only organisation in England and Wales which trains collaborative lawyers. You can find a collaborative lawyer by looking in telephone directories, Yellow Pages, online searches and through Resolution.