Devon Collaborative Family Law Update 2018

Collaborative Family Law vs Mediation

Collaborative family law is a fantastic but underused family dispute resolution process.

With mediation, couples are assisted to reach solutions through confidential negotiation assisted by the neutral mediator.

With the normal model of mediation, each of the couple will seek their own independent legal advice between meetings. The neutral mediator cannot give advice – but can give information in a neutral way.

One of the problems with mediation is that couples in mediation may decline to take legal advice or they may not ask the right questions of their solicitor, or they may not fully hear the advice that is given. This can mean that in some mediations, one or both of the parties will struggle to say yes or even maybe to what might otherwise be reasonable proposals.

Feedback from mediation information and assessment meetings and mediation is occasionally that one party declined to enter mediation, struggled with the mediation process because they felt under supported, or were concerned that the other party would be too overbearing for mediation to be able to work.

If mediation is not suitable, or is not quite the right process, then there are alternatives.

A genuine alternative to mediation

This is where collaborative law fits in. With collaborative family law, both of the couple commits to finding negotiated solution, whilst also avoiding court proceedings. Like mediation the negotiations are confidential. The collaborative law contract, which is called the participation agreement, includes a commitment from both of the couple not to go to court. It is agreed that if the collaborative law process breaks down that the couple will each need to instruct different solicitors. This is a further incentive to settle.

The key to collaborative family law is that there is no neutral mediator (although in some circumstances a mediator could be drafted in, if negotiations got particularly complicated). Instead the couple are reach represented/advised/assisted by their own solicitors. The mediation works through a series of 4 way meetings. The solicitors will work together in a collaborative way.

Advice will be shared and by collaborative working complex issues can be unravelled as a practical and fair solution is worked out. The couple are reach better supported and each will be better able to say yes to a reasonable agreement when the time is right. The solicitors working with their clients are better able to keep the process moving along than with mediation. Letter writing is avoided.

When appropriate other professionals can be brought in to the collaborative law process, such as financial advisers or family consultants (who can assist with coaching around children issues).
Key to the success of collaborative law is that each of the clients have a good relationship and trust in their solicitors and then that there is a good working relationship and trust between both solicitors. To qualify as a collaborative family lawyer specific training is required and this needs to be backed up by regular meetings with other collaborative lawyers and ongoing training.

The alternative to mediation and collaborative law is either negotiation through solicitors letters or roundtable meetings which do not have the protection of the collaborative law agreement or a court process. These negotiations will often be more tetchy and divisive (even if that is not intended).
Collaborative family law offers a way to achieving a better divorce/separation/negotiation in the way that mediation also does.

Working with other Collaborative Family Law Solicitors

You don’t build and sustain good working relationships with other collaborative family law solicitors without meeting and talking.

This year Devon Resolution organised a Collaborative Law Training Day for Devon Collaborative Family Lawyers with the leading collaborative law trainers in the UK – namely Helen Garlic and Suzy Power. (Incidentally, Helen had been one of the helpers on the mediation training that Ian Walker undertook with the renowned Henry Brown and Felicity White, back in 1996). Suzy was one of the trainers when Ian arranged with Resolution the foundation collaborative law training which brought collaborative law to Devon in 2005.

It was good to catch up with Helen and Suzy and also with other collaborative law solicitor colleagues from around Devon. You can never have too much skills training.

By us meeting and training together and building and maintaining good relationships, we can as a group assist our clients better.

Collaborative Family Law is a good option. Give us a call to find out more.