Collaborative divorce is the future. At least that’s what I am being told by our team of collaborative family lawyers. Mind you I certainly agree that a conciliatory approach, where couples agree to reach a settlement on finances and agreement on any arrangements for children without going to court, is a sensible way of conducting a family law case and I’m encouraged to see it’s increasingly being seen as a good approach by more clients too.
Speaking to our team of collaborative family lawyers I challenged them to persuade me of the merits of collaborative family law.
I’m told many people need no other reason than those mentioned above – they don’t want a fight, they want a settlement so they can get on with their life. A collaborative approach can definitely help with this. But I did want to try and capture, succinctly, in one blog, the main reasons why people might chose this route, so I asked each member of the team for their opinions.
At Woolley & Co, we have five collaborative lawyers. Tellingly, they all gave similar answers! The top three answers to the question “why collaborative law?” were:
• It allows parties to retain control of the process and the outcome – you are not at the mercy of court timetables if you agree not to go to court.
• You can keep a lid on costs – engaging a collaborative lawyer, something both parties have to agree to, may at first appear more expensive, but costs are generally saved by avoiding court time. It should also cut down on tit for tat points scoring, allowing couples to reach agreement more quickly.
• It makes for a level playing field – agreeing not to go to court alone can put some people at ease but it also creates a more constructive atmosphere. A court – or the thought of court – can lead to public points scoring. Going down the collaborative route can head that off.
How does a collaborative approach to divorce differ from mediation?
Both parties still have strong legal representation and guidance throughout the process, to help manage expectations and reach the best outcome for all. After mediation, an experienced family lawyer will still need to be engaged by the parties to formalise any agreement.
It may be that the number of people choosing collaborative law to date has been limited by the number of properly trained collaborative lawyers. To work, it needs both parties to have a properly trained lawyer representing them. But as more and more solicitors see the benefits of this route, it can only help more people reach an adult and more businesslike conclusion to their lives together.
At least, that’s the view of our Collaborative Family Lawyers – what’s your take on this?