As the government plans to encourage separating couples to consider methods of dispute resolution rather than resorting to court proceedings, Alison Dukes, Specialist Family Solicitor with AMD Solicitors and a trained Collaborative Lawyer explains how an alternative approach to relationship breakdown may be right for you.
Collaborative Law is a different approach to resolving disputes on divorce or relationship breakdown. It involves former partners sitting down together with their respective solicitors to work out how to share financial assets or responsibilities for any children, as they each go their separate ways.
At the start of the collaborative process each party and their adviser (a trained Collaborative Lawyer) signs a formal agreement confirming that they will reach a solution without going to court. As the lawyers involved in the collaborative process are not allowed to represent their clients in any subsequent court proceedings, it is in everyone’s interests for a solution to be found by agreement.
The process requires a genuine desire on both sides to make it work and a willingness to disclose fully and honestly information about all assets. Negotiations take place at meetings at which each client is present together with their lawyer and it is the clients who set the agenda and the pace of the process. They share their hopes and expectations for the future as they work with their solicitors to try to find a solution which each will find acceptable. Where appropriate, the assistance of other specialists such as accountants and counsellors can be called upon to help resolve outstanding issues or to assist in finding solutions in a particular area of dispute.
Where an agreement can be reached through collaboration there may be significant benefits to the family as a whole. The costs and stress of court proceedings will have been avoided and the assets available to be divided will not have been pointlessly reduced by each side funding heavy litigation costs.
Perhaps most importantly, the relationship between the couple may not have deteriorated to the extent that is sadly common amongst those who have faced a court battle. This is of course vital where there are children involved, as the parents will need to communicate and cooperate for many years to come.
Collaborative practice will not be appropriate for every couple experiencing family breakdown. Couples who are “warring” are unlikely to choose to adopt a collaborative approach. There will be cases where the more traditional and adversarial route of determining the division of family assets will be inevitable, However, for those who know they want a settlement which minimises the emotional cost of divorce or family breakdown, collaborative law will be an attractive and constructive approach.
Alison can be contacted on 0117 9621460 or by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. AMD have offices at Clifton, Henleaze and Shirehampton
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