Alison Dukes, a family law specialist and trained collaborative family lawyer with AMD Solicitors, considers how the collaborative approach can help resolve family issues for those who are determined not to go to court.
As trained solicitors, we know only too well how difficult it is for families going through a tough divorce. Some will remain in unhappy marriages because they cannot face the financial and emotional burden of going to court to settle financial or other issues. There are, however, alternatives to the court system one of which is the collaborative approach.
The main advantage to collaborative law is that both parties commit to resolving things outside of the courts from the start and sign contracts which bind them to this decision. This is perfect for those who would rather deal with issues at their own pace and come to an agreement that prioritises any children as well as meeting individual needs.
Isn’t This Mediation?
Collaborative law may seem a bit like mediation but there are some key differences. A mediator will act as an impartial third party and will advise both people to seek further legal advice from their own lawyers. However, during the collaborative process, each person has their own lawyer in attendance. This is particularly helpful to anyone who doesn’t feel confident in dealing with financial issues.
Another important difference is that a mediator cannot prepare any legally binding documents. Conversely, in collaborative law, once an agreement has been reached your lawyer can prepare the papers for court which outline what has been decided, thus speeding up the process for all involved.
How Will Things Work?
If you opt to resolve things in this manner then this is usually how things will work:
- Each party will have separate, private meetings with their own lawyers and the lawyers will explain how the process works. Your lawyer will also advise you on how best to prepare yourself for the up and coming meetings.
- Both lawyers will then plan the first ‘four-way’ meeting between each other either over the phone or face to face.
- During the first meeting both parties will sign the contract which agrees that things will be settled without going through the courts. You will then have a chance to discuss what financial disclosure needs to take place before you can look at the various options for resolving any financial issues. This will involve the consideration of important aspects such as the needs of any children as well as the income, capital and pension needs of the parties.
- Throughout the following meetings the parties are encouraged to consider various options that will lead to a fair outcome for them both. This could involve the use of other professionals such as finance or pension experts and childcare specialists where necessary.
- Once an agreement has been reached any necessary financial documents will be drawn up and signed, and where there are divorce proceedings the agreed terms will form the basis of a financial order which will be approved by the court. Your lawyer will help you create a timetable for implementing what has been agreed.
A great advantage of collaborative law is that it can be done at your own pace and free of any strict court schedules. This could be over the course of two or three meetings or maybe more, but the main thing is that they can be arranged at the convenience of everyone involved.
At AMD we offer a free first consultation. So if you would like more information on our collaborative law services or would like to speak to Alison Dukes please telephone 0117 9621205 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively you can pop into one of our Bristol offices in Henleaze, Shirehampton and Clifton to talk through your options.