Reaching effective solutions, together

You may have read or heard that using the collaborative process to work out the issues arising from your separation doesn’t necessarily just involve you and your lawyers. There are a host of other professionals trained in the collaborative process, including financial advisers, coaches and family consultants, who can work with you and your lawyers to help you reach agreements.

Here, experienced family consultant Andrew Pearce shares his experience of working with couples using the collaborative process.


I have been involved in over a dozen cases over the last couple of years where separating couples have decided to use collaborative family law and avoid going through the courts. Those couples have reported many advantages to this route, not least retaining control of the decision-making process and coming to a point where an understanding is reached about how to co-parent after they divorce.

As a family consultant, I work with the couple’s lawyers as part of a team, to facilitate meetings and manage tensions and dynamics. My involvement enables progress to be made where it may otherwise have stalled, and this can best be illustrated through a couple of examples.

Resolving differences

The couple were finding it very difficult to resolve their differences, and both believed they were standing their ground in the interests of their child. It was difficult for their lawyers to navigate around this without alienating either client and making a difficult situation worse.

As a non-legal neutral, I was able to ask the “stupid” questions, which quickly revealed the sticking points on both sides. Those sticking points were driven by each person’s worries and concerns. Using humour and challenge, I enabled the couple to reach a point where they could acknowledge their own interests as well as those of their child and other people involved, which formed the basis for a mutually acceptable settlement.

Both said they were happy with the outcome, and felt they had a sound basis to move forward from, rather than a situation that could easily have ended up in court and potentially ended up far more costly for the couple - both financially and emotionally.

Overcoming mistrust

I was involved in this case from the beginning. Whilst both people wanted to stay out of court, there was a lot of long-standing animosity, tension and mistrust between them. It would have been easy to get drawn into that, but instead I decided to keep discussions about co-parenting arrangements separate from those concerning finances (I have found this to be a helpful way of working in a number of cases). After much negotiation and soul searching - and at times tough talking – the couple reached agreement on finances.

Creating a respectful and co-operative relationship

I then met with them without lawyers present to facilitate a discussion about arrangements for their children. Initially it was a very tense atmosphere with both people wanting things their own way. Once they understood that I was there to facilitate, and not decide or pass judgement, the positioning stopped and the couple were able to communicate more effectively to plan out the time that the children would spend with each of them.

Having experienced a way of resolving difficulties and co-parent effectively, both people could demonstrate to their children a respectful and co-operative relationship, thereby giving them a greater sense of security.

Achieving the best outcome for your family

Working with a family consultant alongside their lawyers in the collaborative process provides support that helps couples manage the tensions in their relationship and work out effective solutions, putting the interests of their children first.

The feedback I have had, both from couples and their lawyers, is that involving me in the process has made a real difference in helping them to achieve the best outcome for their family.

For more information about Andrew’s work, visit www.prydale.com.

Andrew will be opening this year's Northern Lights conference in York on Friday 7 October, which brings together collaborative family lawyers, mediators and other family professionals to share collaborative family law knowledge and expertise. Click here for more information.

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