Collaborative Law

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A better way

When separating or divorcing, there are a number of options available to people in terms of trying to reach an agreement regarding finances or children. Most people will be aware of the option to use a solicitor, attend mediation or issue court proceedings. An alternative, less well known option is to engage in the collaborative law process.

This is a process whereby each party instructs their own specially trained collaborative lawyer. Initially, each party will meet with their solicitor on their own to discuss matters in detail and their objectives. A joint meeting with both parties and their lawyers is then arranged, and a Participation Agreement is signed.

The Participation Agreement sets out guidelines for the process and documents the parties commitment to trying to reach an agreement. If either party chooses to issue court proceedings, then neither lawyer can continue acting for their client.

Instead of negotiations being conducted by letter or phone, they take place face to face. The process will involve a series of “4 way” meetings where issues are discussed in an honest, non-confrontational manner. As the discussions take place in the presence of both parties and their lawyers, there is complete transparency about the legal advice being given. This ensures that the parties feel in control of discussions. The process can be faster, cheaper and less acrimonious than court proceedings, which in turn can help improve future communication between the parties. This can be particularly important if there are children involved.

The collaborative process is different to mediation, in that it is only the divorcing parties who attend mediation meetings. Their lawyers will not usually be there. A mediator is neutral and prohibited from giving either party legal advice. If an agreement is reached at mediation, both parties will need to seek their own independent legal advice, before it can become legally binding. In the collaborative process, the parties will have legal advice throughout, and as soon as an agreement is reached, the collaborative lawyers can draw up the relevant paperwork and submit it to the court at the appropriate time.

Lawyers have to be specifically trained in order to represent clients in the collaborative law process. In the Peterborough area The Best Divorce Options Group has been set up by collaborative lawyers from six firms who work together collaboratively to help achieve more amicable outcomes during separation and divorce. Farhana Butt from Hunt & Coombs Solicitors is part of The Best Divorce Options Group and Resolution.

If you require legal advice concerning a divorce or if you would like to learn more about how the collaborative process could help you, please contact our Family team on 01733 882800 or email [email protected].

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