Collaborative law enables couples who have decided to separate or end their marriage to work with their lawyers and other professionals in order to obtain a settlement which best meets the specific needs of both parties and their children outside of Court and without contested litigation.
Collaborative law is a voluntary process initiated when a couple signs a ‘Participation Agreement’, a contract legally binding them to the process and disqualifying their respective lawyers’ right to represent either in any future family-related litigation.
The parties and their collaborative lawyers agree that:
• all concerned will behave courteously and in good faith
• each party will freely disclose all pertinent information and not conceal any facts
• if the settlement process fails, the original lawyers must withdraw and the parties select new lawyers
• neither party will take advantage of mistakes by the other side
• the content matter of the settlement meetings remains confidential
Collaborative law can also be used to facilitate other family issues, such as disputes between parents and the drawing up of pre and post-marital contracts. In the case of the former, many couples prefer to embark on married life by drawing up documents consensually.
Since both lawyers would lose their clients if an agreement was not reached, it is in their interests to encourage them to cooperate and find solutions that honour the concerns of both parties. Other advantages are that it encourages mutual respect, provides for open communication, utilises a problem-solving approach and prepares individuals for their new lives.
The collaborative law approach to family law has gained a lot of ground in recent years. Unlike mediation, which takes place under the guidance of a neutral arbitrator, collaborative family law involves lawyers at every stage of the process. So why should you consider this approach if you find yourself needing a divorce settlement?
1 – It’s non-aggressive. As the name suggests, the collaborative approach is all about working together to find a solution that suits all parties.
2 – It retains all the benefits of having a divorce lawyer on your side, particularly important if you don’t feel up to the task of negotiating on your own behalf.
3 – Collaborative Law is especially suitable for those who need to put their children’s interests first. This is often an area of common ground that can be built upon very successfully with the collaborative approach.
4 – It avoids the lingering rancour of dragging the process through court. If your relationship is still reasonably amicable, and you want it to remain that way, then you should definitely consider a collaborative divorce settlement.
5 – It enables you to keep control of your financial arrangements, whilst still giving you access to expert legal advice.
6 – It gives you back a measure of control over your own divorce, something that can be all too easily lost in traditional, lawyer-led divorce proceedings.
7 – It’s a way to avoid, or at least minimise, the bitterness that can arise if either party tries to seek revenge on the other.
Divorce is never going to be easy or pleasant, but the collaborative family law approach is a way of giving you back as much dignity and control as possible.