Lauren Preedy – Senior Solicitor – Head of Divorce Team
Choosing Collaborative Family Law
Collaborative Family Law or the collaborative process is a process through which couples are able to resolve the issues arising from the divorce or separation by agreement and through sensible face-to-face negotiation which is backed by a commitment not to commence court proceedings.
The starting point for Collaborative Family Law/the Collaborative Process is that the couple together with their solicitors will sign a contract called the Participation Agreement. This is a commitment to resolve issues by agreement and not to go to court.
Writing long letters is avoided. Negotiations are conducted face-to-face.
There follow a series of four-way meetings attended by each of the couple and their solicitors.
Additional professionals can join the meetings where it is helpful. These can include financial planners, accountants, child consultants, mediators.
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The approach taken is very much a problem-solving approach.
The couple commit in the participation agreement that if the collaborative process breaks down then if there are going to make an application to the court – they will need to instruct different solicitors. This discourages everyone from undermining the process.
It is therefore important that care is taken when deciding whether a case is suitable for the Collaborative Process/Collaborative Family Law or not.
Quite clearly – cases where there is very high conflict and where for example one of the couple is not being honest about their financial situation are unlikely to be suitable for the collaborative process.
Experienced professionals working together
What is particularly important in ensuring that a collaborative process can work is that there are good working relationships between the divorce solicitors. This is necessary because each needs to trust that the other will be giving their client sensible advice so that unreasonable and unrealistic positions in the negotiations are avoided. Everyone should be working together to find a fair outcome which is the best that can be achieved for everyone in the family.
Active Collaborative Practitioners regularly meet in groups called PODs (Practice and Organisation Development Groups) where practitioners will undertake training and share experiences from practice. This also assists practitioners knowing each other well and improves professional relationships.
Negotiation through Collaborative Family Law/the Collaborative Process are very much about trying to find win/win solutions.
The collaborative process was created in the USA in 1990. The Collaborative Process came to the UK in 2003. In England and Wales Collaborative Family Law is overseen by Resolution.
Collaborative Family Law in the the South-West
Collaborative law came to the South-West in 2005 when our founder Ian Walker persuaded Resolution to run two Collaborative Family Law foundation training courses in Devon. Those who trained formed the initial core of Collaborative Family Lawyers in the South-West.
Ian Walker and Bridget Garrood who is a consultant solicitor in our divorce team were both trained in this initial South-West training and have both been active members of the Devon Pod ever since.
Within our team, Lauren Preedy who is head of our Divorce Team and divorce specialist Fiona Griffin are also Collaborative Family Lawyers. This gives us one of the biggest teams of Collaborative Family Lawyers in the South-West.
In our view – Collaborative Family Law is potentially the best process for family dispute resolution in most financial cases. This is because it is a very constructive process. Mediation isn’t always successful with divorce finance cases because of disclosure problems or because one or both of the couple struggle to say yes when it comes to agreeing the final deal. Clients are better supported through the collaborative process in our view.
If you want to know more – and how the Collaborative Process can help you – give us a call…
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