Collaborative lawyers are specially trained to act on behalf of their client to negotiate matters in a ‘collaborative’ way. Both the clients and their solicitors sign a participation agreement and by doing so there is an undertaking not to go to court to resolve their dispute. There is a commitment to resolving matters at round-the-table meetings rather than letters going back and forth between Solicitors with the threat of potential litigation.
Rather than focussing on what a person may be entitled to claim, this process focuses on outcomes – what is best for the family as a whole.
The couple retain a sense of influence and power over their circumstances rather than the law dictating what each may be entitled to. This can help secure good ongoing communication between the parties despite their decision to bring their relationship to an end. This is particularly important if there are children involved.
Collaborative law can only be offered by specially trained Solicitors. At Thorntons we have three solicitors who are trained in Collaborative Practice.
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.
Rather than taking positions and focusing on what a person is entitled to in terms of the law, collaborative practice allows a couple to focus on the outcome they want for the family as a whole. This is a more flexible and creative approach and allows parties to retain a sense of control and influence over the process impacting their lives. It encourages a solution that works for both parties and, if they have any, their children. As a result, agreements can be reached that may be more flexible than a decision reached by a court. 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.
As there are no lengthy letters going back and forward between Solicitors, the whole process should be quicker, allowing parties to move on with their lives more quickly.
Each case will be based on it’s own unique facts and circumstances so it is difficult to give an exact timescale. It will likely depend on the complexity of the issues to resolve. For example if there are numerous assets and valuations required this may involve the use of a financial neutral and the need for expert valuations.
There is an incentive to work together and as there is no delay brought about by the exchange of correspondence between solicitors, the process will be efficient and certainly 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 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.