When a relationship breaks down and legal advice is obtained, the traditional scenario involves each party working with their own family law solicitor to “fight” their corner. Fortunately, with the advent of the collaborative law process, all parties involved now have more control of the situation and matters are dealt with much more collaboratively.
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Before the introduction of collaborative family law, letters would usually be sent backwards and forwards between parties trying to reach an agreement. If no agreement was reached, Court proceedings would commence. If there is still no agreement, a Judge decides the outcome.
This process often results in neither party being fully satisfied with the result. There can also be untold damage done to the parties and their children for many years after the event.
The collaborative law process involves the parties with their own specialist trained collaborative lawyer committing to resolve matters without involving the Court. The process seeks to achieve the best possible outcome for everyone, allows for more flexibility and creativity than the traditional process and is a more civilised and humane way of resolving issues.
The Collaborative Law Process
The collaborative process enables all parties to remain in control of the divorce or separation and discuss the issues which are important to them as a family, albeit a divided one, in an environment supported by their own solicitor.
All the work in the collaborative approach is done around the table in a series of four way meetings and everything is presented openly and honestly from the outset. This transparent approach is one of the keys to the success of the collaborative process; the two solicitors work together much more closely than in a traditional case.
Everyone tends to use first names and although the process is serious, the meetings can be quite informal. An agenda details what is to be discussed and minutes are circulated afterwards, usually by four way email. All documentation is shared so when the four way meetings take place there are no surprises.
The Participation Agreement
At the outset of the process, everyone signs a Participation Agreement, confirming that no-one will go to Court. This embodies the commitment to resolve things by way of respectful, open discussions.
All parties also prepare Anchor Statements. Anchor Statements contain the goals each party wants to achieve at the conclusion of the process, the reasons for resolving things collaboratively and their hopes for the future. They provide a good focus for everyone and often include details about arrangements and hopes for children.
The Anchor Statements are read out at the beginning of each meeting to remind everyone why they are dealing with matters in this way and can be a good point of reference when things get difficult.
The Benefits of the Collaborative Process
The success of the collaborative process lies in open communication and a commitment to achieving a fair and equitable settlement. Because of this, the failure rate of the collaborative approach is very low. Other benefits include privacy, family harmony, the lack of stressful Court proceedings, and the process not being adversarial by nature.
It is important to note that if the process fails, both parties need to instruct new solicitors.
Finding a Collaboratively Trained Solicitor
To find a collaboratively trained solicitor in the north east, please go to www.collabfamilylawnortheast.co.uk or www.resolution.org.uk. You can also contact Fiona Ryans and Derek Pack, solicitors in the Family Law department at Beecham Peacock at our Newcastle office on 0191 232 3048.
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