How does the old saying go…? "There is no I in team"?
It might seem strange to be talking about teamwork when focusing on divorce and separation – by its very nature, isn't the process about dividing; two people going their separate ways and learning to manage as "I" rather than "we"?
That may be true, although the collaborative approach to family law does have teamwork at its heart. One of the first discussions we will have with a client who instructs us wishing to separate is how they will continue to manage in a relationship with a former partner. Yes, that’s right – stay in a relationship; usually a co-parenting relationship – here teamwork is vital. It's so important that children don't feel part of the conflict, worry that they have to defend their feelings or try to align themselves to one parent or another. It’s essential that parents continue that strong co-parenting bond and are able to make all the important decisions that still need to be made about the children. It just takes more work on communication in separation.
Another team is legal team. Here is a key difference in the collaborative approach – the lawyers work together. Yes, the husband and the wife will still each have their own lawyer and that lawyer will always be available for independent advice, but the two lawyers together are committed to the family as a whole and finding the right, fair and workable solutions for that particular family. That's really important and it makes a massive difference to the work we do when we get on with our other lawyer colleague and can work co-operatively, creatively and of course collaboratively.
The collaborative meetings themselves also involve teamwork. Everyone has to be focused on the end result - how we get from where we are now to where everyone wants to be going forward in the future. We might involve other professionals in collaborative family law work, or a wider team involving with financial advisers, accountants, counsellors, coaches and so on. More often than not, the meetings will involve one of these advisors also being present; more teamwork.
So what we want to reassure you about is that, although separation and divorce can feel like a very lonely and isolating process, we hope to work very much as a team. We will give you all the support you need and put the right people around you. We will encourage you and your former partner to continue working in that way. It’s the better way to divorce.
Sarah Smith is Yorkshire's only Eminent Practitioner in Family Law. She is a collaboratively trained lawyer and Managing Director of Berwins Solicitors.