It is unfortunate that the divorce process is so heavily process driven. Like most things linked to the law, there is protocol to be followed, records to be kept, applications to be filed and papers to be served. Sometimes it can seem a bit like letter-writing tennis as representatives for the two camps exchange views and crawl slowly towards agreement – or at least a position that both can live with going forward.
When I established Woolley & Co in 1996, I wanted to do what I could to get away from this. With the advent of new technology, in particular email, I thought the legal sector more than any could embrace this to speed up the process, making it less expensive and more efficient for all concerned.
Fourteen years later, while we have built a service around the needs of clients and routinely email important documents and correspondence, many other firms still rely on snail mail and our not infallible postal service. Most Courts insist on hard copy documents and won’t accept email – which is surely madness in a society desperately trying to reduce waste and improve efficiency.
The tennis game continues and at a snails pace.
There is growing support though for another way, through collaborative law. This is one way of operating that has come over from the States that I really think is a good idea! It is when both parties commit – by signing an agreement in advance – to thrashing out a deal without going to court. They meet, each with their legal representatives, to discuss face to face the different decisions that need to be made, like how to organise contact with the children and how to split the finances. Not only does this help sort things in a more cordial atmosphere but also, by not going to court, helps keep the potential costs down.
The four-way meetings nurture an atmosphere of resolution rather than conflict. More and more people seem to be looking at sorting the details of a divorce this way, though the number of collaborative lawyers is still limited. At Woolley & Co, five of our lawyers, Sue Harwood, Kathryn McTaggart, Tamara Glanvill and Catherine Edmonson are fully trained collaborative lawyers. If the number of collaborative lawyers in the country continues to grow, we can increase the pressure on the sector to get away from the letter-writing culture and – finally – move into the 21st Century.
In the meantime who’ll join with me in putting pressure on the Courts to accept email rather than hard copy documents to cut through some of the bureaucracy that is England’s Court system?