7th Oct 2016

Focusing on the light at the end of the tunnel

Collaborative family lawyer and head of the Berwins Family Law team, Sarah Smith identifies how an amicable, future focused split can help both parties move on.

“A Prenup for our Future” – This is an actual quote from someone am I working with currently on a collaborative law basis. When she first said it, I did my ‘understanding nod’, but inside I was asking "What did she say?" "Why does she need a Prenup if she’s getting divorced?" I paused momentarily and my client went on to expand a little. Then I really understood what this lady meant. She meant the process of them pausing to take stock, reflect, plan and set out principles and agreements about how they wished to live their separated lives, particularly as co-parents – in much the same way as a prenup is meant to future-regulate.

We are surrounded by divorce myths. One of my personal favourites, of course, is the idea that lawyers only make things worse. The separating parties are stereotyped too; "the wife scorned" the "I'll take you to the cleaners", and so on. There are images of crockery being hurled, tyres being slashed, prize possessions being donated to charity, and whilst it is true that some of our cases are like that, not every divorce is fuelled by rage. There are those who have reached a stage in their relationship where they look at themselves and at each other and reflect that the marriage relationship is no more for them.  They still recognise that they need and indeed want to have some form of ongoing relationship – particularly emphasised where there are children concerned – just not as a married couple.

During Collaborative Family Law week, we’ve already looked at divorcing with dignity. Because collaborative law offers the parties the opportunity to communicate openly and to fully understand and control the process themselves, it is very much more the dignified way to separate and divorce. It's not painless, but it's preferable to being sent before a judge who will give orders as to what is to happen. Lots of my clients stay in touch with me afterwards and it's great to hear how life has moved on and how things have got better. My LinkedIn profile describes my role as ‘helping people to find the light at the end of the tunnel’; and there always is one.  What's particularly fantastic for me is when I hear from collaborative clients that they are really able to communicate with their estranged other half; to attend events at school and even weddings – together. Better for them, better for children, better for all concerned.

Collaborative law means there is a future for people post-divorce.  Although not the one they envisaged on wedding day, it is a positive and communicative one. I'm proud to be part of helping couples get to that brighter future.

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