“Sit around a table with my ex to work out our divorce? You’ve got to be joking…”

This often the initial reaction we get from people when we first mention the idea of collaborative law and whether it could be right for them.

And it’s perfectly understandable. You’ve separated from your husband, wife or partner. Emotions are running high. It’s an incredibly difficult time, and the thought of being in the same room as your ex – let alone discussing your future, your children and your finances with them – can be hard to take.

However you go about it, the process of unravelling connected lives is not an easy one. But, for many people - and for a number of different reasons - the ‘traditional’ court process may not be the best approach for everyone.

Collaborative family law gives you an alternative. The concept is relatively straightforward: you and your ex each appoint a lawyer and the four of you discuss, together, in a series of ‘four-way’ meetings, the issues surrounding your separation with a view to reaching agreement. All without setting foot in court. The only court involvement is when the agreement you have reached together is presented to a judge to rule on – and you don’t need to be there when that happens.

It sounds simple. And, for some people, it can be. But we understand that everyone’s circumstances are different, and there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to resolving issues when couples separate. Our role is to help you find the approach that best suits you and your family situation.

Cutting out the middleman

Divorce lawyers are often criticised for fanning the flames of acrimony, and certainly the chain of events required for you to communicate with your ex in the ‘traditional’ divorce process does nothing to help this. You ask a relatively simple question via your solicitor, who passes it to your ex’s solicitor, who passes it to your ex – and the response comes back along the chain, sometimes taking days or even weeks.

Picture instead the opportunity to have that discussion face to face, around a table, knowing that you each have your lawyer by your side to advise and guide you. You’ll get instant feedback and the opportunity to discuss and resolve things between you there and then, speeding up the process and minimising the damage that Chinese whispers can cause. Discussing things face to face means that there is far less scope for misinterpretation and misunderstanding and, although those discussions can be difficult at times, people who have been through the collaborative process say it is well worth it.

Working together

At the heart of the collaborative approach is the principle of working together. It’s about getting around a table with your partner and working through the things that are important to you. You are each fully supported by your own specially trained family lawyer, who is there for you throughout. They will advise you and help you get all the support you need to reach agreement on everything from contact with your children to long term financial planning.

Collaborative family law isn’t for everyone, but it has certainly enabled many couples to reduce acrimony and build a more positive future for themselves and their families.

Over the course of this week we will be looking at different aspects of the collaborative process in a series of articles designed to help you, a friend or a family member decide whether it could be right for you or for them. For more information about the collaborative process in the meantime, or to find a trained collaborative lawyer in your area, click here.
Brighter Future