The Collaborative process is an increasingly popular process designed to enable and assist parties take control of their own family law issues, such as divorce, separation, pre-nuptial agreements, or agreements relating to children or finances, without the active intervention of the courts. The benefits of the collaborative approach is that it enables the clients to focus on what is important to them and resolve matters quickly, flexibly and creatively. The process is simple and eliminates the opportunity for misunderstanding. The goal is to enhance communication and lay the foundations for a healthy relationship afterwards, particularly important where children are involved. Collaborative clients also benefit from the high degree of privacy given to problems and financial information. Most collaborative clients find that the process offers good value for money.
The collaborative approach requires
- that both the participants and their lawyers commit to doing all within their power to avoid going to court. The lawyers are required to sign a “disqualification agreement” – if negotiations break down they will not participate in subsequent court proceedings. The intention being that the disruption that this would cause will encourage everyone to work constructively and creatively towards a solution.
The process involves a succession of meetings, some just the lawyers and others known as “four-way meetings” involving both participants and their lawyers sitting together round a table to discuss all the issues that need to be resolved. In financial issues, for example, this might include an exchange and analysis of financial data and thereafter the canvassing and development of solutions – using a problem solving approach and eventually creating a legally binding outcome for approval by the court. The participants agree to share information openly and honestly to help reach an effective agreement, and other experts, such as tax accountants, pension experts or family therapists can be enlisted to join in the process.
Collaborative law is now well established in the U.K. but it does require specialist training for the lawyers to equip them with the skills to adopt a highly co-operative approach.