There is an alternative to the conventional process of going through the courts to resolve issues of property and finance and your children – it is collaborative law.
If you feel that you can work cooperatively with your husband or wife towards a common goal that is beneficial to both of you and especially your children, then the collaborative process is for you.
The experience of a marriage break up can often be painful and frustrating, whilst you try to negotiate via your respective solicitors in an effort to reach a settlement about money and arrangements for your children. Then if negotiations don’t work out, you are waiting on the court’s prolonged timetable for the filing of evidence and listing hearing dates. At the end of it all, you risk feeling dissatisfied and resentful – feelings that could stay with you for years to come. If you have children, this is not the best foundation for separated parents to provide a fulfilling role for their children’s future care.
If you collaborate, you will still receive individual advice from your own solicitor, but the majority of work will take place in four-way meetings, with your husband or wife and the two lawyers, following an agenda that you both draw up and agree on beforehand, covering whatever topic needs sorting out at that stage.
You can have as many or as few meetings as you wish. You are not at the mercy of the courts, either under their restrictive timetable or their unpredictable decisions. You take control.
There is a commitment needed to collaborate. Everyone signs a contract at the start of the process, promising that no-one will start court proceedings (except for the divorce which is all done on paper anyway) and if this is breached, then both husband and wife have to instruct new solicitors from scratch. This contract means that everyone buys in to making the collaborative process work, steering your way round any obstacles that appear along the way.
Collaborative law is not promoted as a less expensive way of divorcing but of course it can be if you quickly find that your first four-way meeting covers most of the ground necessary to draw up a consent order. You can also bring other experts into the process, such as accountants, financial advisors (e.g. for pension advice) and family therapists, if there are issues with the children. All this can be done at your own time and pace, without being told when and what to do by outside agencies.
Collaboratively trained family lawyers have obtained the specialist qualification from Resolution, the UK family lawyers group whose website can tell you more about this alternative approach to divorce at www.resolution.org.uk/alternatives_to_court/
Belinda Smith is a trained collaborative lawyer and a member of the local group based in Peterborough. Visit www.pcflg.co.uk for details of all the qualified collaborative lawyers in the area and ring Belinda on 01733 267414 if you would like more information.