Marking Collaborative Family Law Week 2018, Berwins’ top rated family law team is exploring what journeying through the separation process can mean for separating couples.
Ok, so we’re further into the journey. You’ve decided the separation is happening and you’ve signed up with the lawyer of your choice. You’re still on speaking terms with your (soon to be) ex, but…
- You haven’t told the children yet. You don’t even know when the best time is to tell them, let alone what to say.
- Your parents don’t think you should get divorced, possibly influenced by the £20,000 they provided when you bought your home…
- Your best friend thinks you are being way too soft and you should ‘take that beep beep to the cleaners’
- How are you going to sort your tax return which is due next month and your partner has always done for you?
- How are you going to pay the bills if you move out?
- How are you going to stay sane if you don’t???
You will have plenty of questions – along with fear and confusion, it’s entirely understandable to be curious about what the future will hold. Especially in the early stages. This is where collaborative divorce and mediation really come into their own. You can talk about the things that are on your mind and make sure that, whatever happens, we keep focus on the things that are important to you. And there are no stupid questions. “What about the dog?”, “How do we sort Christmas presents?” “Can we both still go to parents’ evenings?” – if it’s important to you, it’s important that we resolve it.
At the beginning of the collaborative process there are two crucial documents so you can be assured of the above. One is a Participation Agreement, the other is the Anchor Statement. A participation agreement is, if you like, the contract that governs the process; or in other words - how we do this. It makes it clear that it collaborative law is a future focused process where the team of the separating couple and their respective lawyers (and counsellors/coaches and financial advisor as necessary) work collaboratively and creatively to find solutions that work for all. It’s also a commitment NOT to go to court but to resolve matters yourselves. What is more, the lawyers sign up to it too so everyone is working to the same agenda.
The second document, the Anchor Statement, is your chance to say what is important to you. What do you want to achieve? What do you need to avoid? What would be a good outcome for you? These are shared. They can be incredibly powerful. They help provide focus on where you do have common ground, rather than the differences between you. And future hopes remind you that your shared history is still important and there are sometimes where your futures may coincide, e.g. if you have children together, don’t you still want to be the parents who can both go to the wedding???
Sarah Smith is a leading family lawyer and mediator. She is the only solicitor ranked as an “Eminent Practitioner” in industry guide Chambers and Partners and has been supporting separating couples for over 20 years.