This is a comparatively new procedure to resolve disputes. Collaborative lawyers are specially trained to act on behalf of their client to negotiate matters in a ‘collaborative’ way by making a commitment not to go to court and by trying to resolve matters at round-the-table meetings rather than letters going back and forth between Solicitors.
This process can be very dynamic and can help communication between couples. If there is a willingness to collaborate then there can be outcomes that allow parties to remain on good terms for the future, which is particularly important if there are children involved. Collaborative law can only be dealt with by specially trained Solicitors.
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The following are some of our most frequently asked questions when it comes to collaborative law.
Collaborative Family Law started some years ago in the USA. Some solicitors there were tired of the adversarial nature of family law and concluded that if parties committed themselves to avoiding going to court and agreed that all discussions would take place at joint meetings of solicitors and clients then this could produce outcomes that would not necessarily be available through a court.
It was felt that the parties would be left still having some respect for each other and able to communicate civilly in the future. This was seen as being particularly important where there were children involved.
There are collaboratively trained Solicitors across the country who can provide this service.
The process involves both parties sitting down and meeting with their respective solicitors and endeavouring to reach agreement in all matters. There is no ongoing correspondence between Solicitors other than minutes of the meeting. The parties commit to avoiding court action and cannot use the same firm of solicitors if the collaborative process breaks down.
The main benefit to collaborative family law is that it encourages parties to communicate their views in a controlled environment. This allows the other party to understand the problem from their former partner’s perspective and through that find solutions that work for both sides. As a result, agreements can be reached that might not be within the scope of a court decision.
The hope is that despite no longer wishing to live with each other, the parties still have sufficient respect for each other that will allow them to maintain some sort of relationship going forward. Because there is a real incentive to avoid court, parties have to be flexible in their approach to problem solving.
As there are no lengthy letters going back and forward between Solicitors, the whole process can be completed in a relatively short space of time, so allowing parties to move on with their lives more quickly.
It is difficult to say exactly how long the process will take. If there are significant assets that require to be valued, such as pensions or business interests, there can be delays but once the valuations are obtained, the process tends to be quite dynamic and fast moving. One would certainly expect matters to be resolved within a number of months and much faster than it would take to resolve through the court.
The purpose of collaborative family law is to avoid court. So the intention is to reach an agreement on all personal and financial matters that is recorded in a formal Minute of Agreement that is binding on both parties.
Once that agreement has been reached, the only issue that requires to go to court is if the parties are married and wish to divorce. The agreement will include a clause to the effect that either party can raise divorce proceedings and the other party will not defend them. As the divorce is not defended, there is no need for either party to attend court and evidence can be provided in sworn affidavits.
If the collaborative process ends before an agreement is reached, the parties may have to go to court to have their disputed issues resolved but they will have to instruct new Solicitors and this provides a great incentive to see the collaborative process through to the end.
Thorntons Family Law team includes Solicitors who are specially trained in collaborative law. They can talk you through the process and what it involves, and help you decide if this is the right dispute resolution method for you. If you go ahead, we can act on your behalf to help you come to an agreement collaboratively with the other party.
Call us on 03330 430 150 for a chat or contact us to book an appointment.
The cost of using the collaborative process will vary according to the complexity of the issues involved. If decisions have to be made about residence and contact with children as well as various financial matters, it is likely that several four-way meetings will be required. The cost will certainly be comparable with more traditional options, such as negotiation, but is likely to be substantially less expensive than a defended court action.
It is open for the parties to agree how the costs will be funded. If there are outlays to be met, such as the cost of valuing a business or the cost of counselling for children, the party with the higher income may agree to fund these in the first instance with account taken of this at the conclusion of the process. Equally, the costs can be shared between the parties.
Usually each party will meet their own Solicitor’s costs but again this can be the subject of agreement between the parties.
We are always clear to clients about the potential costs of any option and offer a range of payment options. In some cases we can offer clients a fixed price package. If we cannot offer a fixed price service, we charge based on the time we spend on your case, including meetings, emails and phone calls. Depending on your case and circumstances, you may also need to cover outlays, such as payments to independent experts. We will set out our fees and likely extra costs for you at the start and keep you informed of any possible changes as your case progresses.
Please note we do not offer Legal Aid for this service.
Frequently asked questions
We often receive questions about agreeing family issues through methods such as Collaboration. We have answered some commonly asked questions below
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