Everyone knows someone, whether it be a friend or a family member, who has gone through a “messy divorce”. A separation which has costs thousands of pounds and has involved lengthy court proceedings. But what if there was another way, one which is less confrontational and one whereby you and your wife/husband control the process?
Well there is............
Collaborative law came to the UK in 2002 and as of April 2016, there are 1289 practitioners across the UK trained in the process and dedicated to finding a solution out of court. This process is not suitable for everyone but it is becoming more and more popular around the UK.
Whilst you each have your own lawyer throughout the process, both solicitors and both parties work as a team to find a solution that works for your family. The process involves all parties sitting around a table together, with the support of the lawyers, to discuss possible solutions. There are no letters going back and forth between solicitors and all advice is provided openly in the meeting. You will have the support of both lawyers and you will be guided throughout the process. All parties sign up to the process and by doing so, commit to finding a solution out of court.
Having two other collaborative lawyers in our team, I thought I had a good idea what to expect and was keen to sign up to the course. I had been warned that the course was extremely tiring and that I would question how I had approached cases in the past……They were correct!
So last month I took the trip to London for the three day course. There were 18 other delegates from all over the UK. Some had travelled from Cumbria, some were barristers and one was a PhD student wanting to learn more about the process. We were all keen and ready for the three days ahead.
We spent three days learning how to approach a collaborative case, from the initial meeting with our clients to the final stages. We were taught what language was appropriate and what words/phrases should be avoided- which is harder than it sounds! We spent three days in role play activities and learning from two collaborative practitioners who had practiced this method for years.
The biggest difference, I found between the collaborative process and the convention approach, is that there are no “sides”. Both solicitors and both clients work together to find the solution. There are no underhanded tactics, information being withheld or the parties holding their cards close to their chest. If you feel an outcome would be unfair on one party then you would explore your concerns in the meeting, irrespective of whether the agreement is in your client’s benefit or not. There is no winner or loser from this process, both walk away with an arrangement that suits their family and not one that has been imposed on them by the Courts. Also most couples walk away with a decent relationship with one another whereby they can communicate in the future and be civil to one another.
My peers were correct, I left the course extremely exhausted and questioning my whole approach to cases. However I also left with great enthusiasm and determination to convert more cases to the collaborative process.