The process of collaborative family law is a fairly new method which is being used to deal with family disputes – especially divorce and civil partnership dissolution. In collaborative law, a family lawyer is appointed by each party, but the partners meet face-to-face instead of trying to sort their issue out through letters and telephone calls. The basis is quite different from that taken by traditional divorce solicitors – a very adversarial process. Instead collaborative law, like family mediation, tries to focus on agreement rather than disagreement. It can work really well – but only for couples who are open and honest and are seeking a fair resolution – excepting, in all likelihood, that in creating two homes where these to be one, they will probably be less well off financially than they were as a couple.
So what actually happens in a typical collaborative law divorce?
1. Having a meeting with your lawyer
First, each of you will meet with your divorce solicitor and have two separate meetings so that you can each talk about what to expect at the first collaborative meeting (also known as a four way meeting). You and your lawyer will also discuss what you both need to do in terms of preparation. Then, both divorce solicitors will plan for the first meeting together. They will either meet up or have a phone conversation to do this.
2. First four way meeting
Your respective family lawyers will explain that you are committing to making an agreement outside of Court and you will have to sign an agreement that says you are making this commitment. You can then share information about what you expect to achieve from this process. After this, all four of you will plan the next meeting. What will happen in the next meeting is very much dependent on your particular case, but an example of the second meeting may be discussing how the children involved are handling the separation.
3. Future four way meetings
Concerns and important issues will be raised in meetings with both you, your spouse and both family lawyers. Arrangements for finances and childcare will be made. This may involve employing the services of financial experts or other professionals that will help you come to an agreement on certain aspects and issues of the separation.
4. The final meeting
You and your former partner will sign documents that consolidate the agreements that you have come to in the previous meetings. Your lawyers will tell you what steps you need to take to put the agreements into practice. You may have a time schedule, but it may be impractical if the agreement involves time-consuming procedures such as selling the family home.
A large advantage with the collaborative family law process is that the Court is not involved. Therefore, the timescale for arranging meetings and implementing agreements is much more flexible.
We’re really proud to have two fully trained collaborative lawyers – if you have family law problems or are thinking of divorce, and you’re interested in the collaborative law approach, get in touch with us today.