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Collaborative law is a way for divorcing couples (or those dissolving a civil partnership) to resolve issues concerning children, property, finances and assets without needing to go to court. It involves both of you appointing your own collaboratively trained solicitor and discussing arrangements over a series of four way meetings (you, your partner and each of your solicitors) rather than over the phone or in writing.
To ensure everyone is incentivised to reach a satisfactory agreement, you, your partner and both of your lawyers sign a 'Participation Agreement' stating that neither of you will issue court proceedings. It also states that if discussions break down and the collaborative process ends, your collaborative lawyers cannot represent either of you in court. Thus everyone has an incentive to see discussions through and reach an agreement.
The really positive thing about collaborative law is that it encourages strong communication between you and your spouse and aims to reduce tension, anger and hostility by helping you work issues out between you with your solicitors there to provide advice and ensure any agreements reached are fair. It tends to be a quicker process than going through court too, since it's easier to quickly identify what the issues are and how to solve them since meetings are face-to-face. You are also more likely to come up with a more practical, workable agreement than if a court were to order one since you can listen to each other and be creative and constructive. You'll also be making decisions for yourselves (along with your lawyers) so you'll be ensuring the best possible outcome for your family.
If you and your spouse decide that collaborative law is the right option for you, you will each meet with your lawyers separately in order to discuss what you expect from the four way collaborative meetings. Your solicitor will advise you of what you need to do in terms of preparation and will plan the meeting with your partner's lawyer.
At the first four way meeting, your solicitors will ensure that you both understand the process and you will sign your Participation Agreement. You and your spouse will then be able to share your objectives and plan an agenda for the next meeting. You will also agree on how to share information on finances and what information you both need to provide at the next meeting.
At subsequent four way meetings, concerns and issues that you and your partner have prioritised will be discussed and specialists (e.g. accountants) can be brought in if need be. Over the course of the meetings you will reach agreements on things like how to share the finances and what arrangements should be made regarding any children. You can have as many of these meetings as necessary for you to reach a fair agreement.
In your final meeting, you will sign documents detailing the agreements you have reached and your solicitors will offer advice on what you both need to do to implement them. If possible, a timetable for this will be drawn up.
If you are looking to collaborative law as a means of reaching a divorce or dissolution settlement, contact the expert divorce and family law solicitors at Forbes on Freephone 0800 689 1058 or complete our online enquiry form.
Get in touch to see how our experts could help you.