Why breaking up needn't be so hard to do
For around 120,000 couples in England and Wales every year, divorce is a reality they have to face up to. However, does separating from your spouse have to be an acrimonious affair, fraught with arguments, conflict and mud slinging?
Can there be such a thing as a happy divorce'? It's a sad reality of our times that 42% of marriages end in divorce, with nearly half of these involving children under the age of 16. Rather than facing lengthy and expensive courtroom battles that can take an immense toll on your family, time and emotions, there is an alternative available.
The collaborative approach has been developed for couples who have reached the decision that their relationship has come to an end, but who do not seek to separate in such a way that causes acrimony and long lasting bitterness
Collaborative law is a structured process that provides parties with an alternative to going to Court and deals with the issues that arise in a constructive and non-confrontational way.
What is the collaborative process?
Under the collaborative process, each person appoints their own collaboratively trained solicitor and through a series of round table meetings work together to resolve the issues that have arisen following the breakdown of a relationship.
You have your solicitor by your side every step of the way offering you support and legal advice. The collaborative process is very much driven by the clients and allows them to work as a team with trained professionals with respect for each other and without having to go to Court.
Both solicitors and clients sign a Participation Agreement, which provides that if the parties are unable to reach a settlement, the solicitors withdraw from the case and the parties will seek new solicitors. This ensures that everybody is fully committed to the process and gives everybody an incentive to reach an agreement through collaborative discussion.
What are the benefits of collaborative law?
It reduces hostility and encourages communication with the spouses and solicitors working closely as a team. Important especially when you hope to remain amicable with your ex-partner, maybe you have children together and will need to continue to work together to co-parent.
It is not driven by the timetables imposed by the Courts so the process can be built around your family's needs and priorities.
It is easier to identify quickly what the issues are and to sort them out.
You can be more creative in finding solutions when sitting around a table and be more constructive about what will work for your family.
You remain in control of the process rather than handing over such important decision making to your solicitor or to a complete stranger (a judge)
Is collaborative law suitable for everybody?
The collaborative process is not suitable for everyone and it is best to discuss all your options with your solicitor at your first meeting. The collaborative process will not be suitable for any body looking to seek revenge against their spouse or seeking aggressive representation.
How is collaborative law different from mediation?
Within the mediation process your solicitor would not accompany you to the mediation appointments. The mediator is there to facilitate you both and will advise you each to seek your own independent legal advice. One important difference is that anything that is agreed during the mediation process is not binding and will only become binding once you had both had the option of seeking legal advice and the agreement has been incorporated within an order of the Court, which would be drafted by a solicitor. The same solicitor could act for you in the collaborative process and the subsequent divorce proceedings.
Mediation may be a cheaper option in comparison to the collaborative route and this is something that should be kept in mind but ultimately this will depend on the number of meetings and level of representation you are seeking. Both the mediation and collaborative process are likely to be considerably cheaper than the traditional Court option.
Collaborative law may be the preferred option for clients that may feel vulnerable or lack negotiation skills or feel they may be less financially knowledgeable in comparison to their spouse or partner.
Kellie-Jayne Cox is a solicitor and director of JC Solicitors in Chichester. Kellie-Jayne is a member of Family Law Resolution and has gained accredited specialism in domestic abuse and private children law matters. Kellie-Jayne is a great believer in promoting compromise and agreement in family matters wherever possible. JC Solicitors, 15 Southgate, Chichester. PO19 1ES. 01243 850860