In the 21st century it is very common to learn from the more brutal approach of the past and find more constructive and collaborative ways to solve problems. Collaborative law is exactly this; an amicable, mature and positive approach to divorce and separation, which takes into account the raw emotions involved and works towards a solution that suits everyone in a ‘win-win’ scenario.

Collaborative law resolves divorce and separation disputes outside of court, and through productive and structured discussions. To use modern business speak, collaborative law is a way to ‘trouble shoot and problem solve’ disputes in a series of meetings rather than in a courtroom where an unhealthy ‘fight to win’ approach is more common.

The Collaborative Law Process

This can be flexible, but roughly flows like this

  • Both parties appoint separate representation to produce ‘four-way meetings’. Should the process break down and court proceedings are initiated, the collaborative law process is terminated and neither of these lawyers can represent the parties further. So, from the outset, it is in everybody’s best interests to resolve the dispute amicably.
  • Both parties sign a ‘Participation Agreement’ which details how documents and information will be disclosed honestly and openly, how both parties will act respectfully and without using disparaging tactics, how any children will be protected in the process to minimise any impact on them and how no party shall seek or threaten court action. This document also details how both parties will co-operate over the use of ‘experts’, ie. sharing costs of advice on issues such as property, businesses, marriage guidance, mental health counsellors and accountants.
  • From here a series of meetings take place between all four parties, although the lawyers will talk privately in preparation for the first meeting. A set of priorities will be set in the first meeting, in terms of the main outstanding matters that need to be resolved. Further meetings will then seek to resolve these issues with the use of experts. Typically there are between two and five meetings, but there are no strict parameters.
  • Child specialists can be appointed to talk children through this process, and as the unintended victims they are taught how to cope and how to communicate throughout each stage.
  • A final meeting will produce documents detailing each agreement, which are required to be signed. The lawyers will then talk through what is outstanding to ensure these agreements are implemented.

The Benefits of Collaborative Law

  • Of course collaborative law will not work in every case, it needs two willing participants, but it uses professionals to
    take a team approach and recognises the psychological strain of the process. There are plenty of other benefits too, collaborative law:
  • Accounts for the whole family in disputes and not individuals
  • Reduces hostility between key parties
  • Is carried out face-to-face rather than via letter, e-mail or phone so can be more constructive and therefore also reaches a more rapid settlement
  • Is a more flexible process as it is not driven by the timetable of the courts
  • Avoids the expense of going to court
  • Recognises that emotional issues exist, which the court process does not allow for and sometimes takes advantage of.

Collaborative Law at Ison Harrison

Ison Harrison has a trained collaborative lawyer in Emma Beddoe who specialises in divorce matters, and we have several other experts who can advise on all aspects of family law, and how to a
pproach and begin the collaborative law process. Collaborative law works in line with the Ison Harrison ethic of providing sympathetic advice which takes into account individual needs, priorities and emotions.

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