Collaborative Law – An Alternative Approach for Family Law

Collaborative Law – An Alternative Approach for Family Law

Collaborative law is a process designed to give parties in relationship breakdown a lead role in problem and issue solving which enables them to preserve their dignity and relationship for the future. This can be especially important where children are involved as war between parents can and usually does cause their children stress and upset.

Specially trained solicitors guide the parties through this process at a series of round table meetings called ‘four ways’. These take place in the solicitor’s offices and are informal and without prejudice so that if the parties cannot reach an agreement, what has happened in the meetings cannot later be referred to.

At the first of these meetings a “Participation Agreement” is considered by the parties and discussed in detail. If everyone is content that this is workable and the way forward then all four sign the document. This regulates how they will all behave and what happens when a solution is found and what happens if a solution cannot be found or one of the parties or the solicitors wish to withdraw from the agreement. If that does happen then both solicitors have to withdraw which means the parties have to find new solicitors and start again.

The meetings are used to gather, share and consider information. If specialist assistance is needed, joint instructions may be dispatched. It may be that valuations of property, pensions or businesses need to be obtained.

The solicitors are there to help with legal knowledge and explanations of the law which would govern such a dispute. Additionally of course they are there to support their client and to discuss matters with them as the process goes along.

Some parties who are struggling to come to terms with the relationship breakdown may be referred for specialist counselling support to help them.

The parties decide what is important to them and the order in which they wish to resolve those issues. Children are always placed at the forefront of all discussions and parents are encouraged to draw up parenting plans so that their children are aware that despite their separation, as parents they stand together for the support and upbringing of their children.

The process is relatively new to this country but more and more solicitors are training and clients who go through the process successfully express themselves as delighted at having done so. Collaborative law does not suit all but it is another valuable method of helping clients for the family lawyer.