What is collaborative law?

Divorces are often acrimonious and costly affairs. Sometimes the whole process can get so out of hand that the divorce itself consumes much of the couple’s capital. When a marital relationship comes to an end, often the best way forward is to get a divorce, but divorces are often contentious and very costly.

However there is an alternative; collaborative law. This is a legal process that avoids divorce courts and achieves a mutually agreeable settlement that addresses the needs of all parties, including children.

What exactly is collaborative law?

Really it is all in the word collaborative. It is a legal process in which the two parties who have made a decision to end their marriage collaborate together with their solicitors in order to achieve an outcome that is accepted by both of them and that addresses the needs of their children.

Once an agreement has been reached, this is written up as a consent order that is authorised by the court. A similar process that is often used is mediation, but collaborative law works slightly differently.

What is different between collaborative law and conventional divorce?

There are several differences. While you will have your own solicitor and your partner will have theirs, rather than working against each other in an adversarial manner, the solicitors will collaborate in order to find the best solution that addresses your needs, those of your partner and your children. Sometimes other people will be called upon for support, for instance counselors, financial advisors, and specialists in child welfare.

A consent order also avoids a court hearing which could end in a less than optimum and unpredictable outcome.

What is the difference between collaborative law and mediation?

There are some similarities, but the processes are really quite different. Mediators do not provide legal advice nor represent their clients; they have to seek help from solicitors throughout the process though solicitors rarely attend mediation meetings. You still need legal advice and the agreement reached needs to be developed into a consent order of the court by a solicitor. In mediation both you and your partner’s solicitor are involved in obtaining the divorce decree and in preparing the consent order.

What are the cost differences between divorce, mediation and collaborative law?

Generally divorce is the most costly option; sometimes it can be so costly that it doesn’t leave the divorced individuals with very much money. It is important to discuss the costs involved with the different options with your solicitor. Costs depend on many factors, including how willing you and your partner are to collaborate.

Generally speaking the quicker you are able to come to a result, the less the cost will be. As the amount of time your solicitors will need to spend corresponding is a lot less in the collaborative process, the costs are likely to be considerably lower.

How does the collaborative process work?

The process begins with you having a private meeting with your solicitor who will explain the whole process to you and how you should prepare for the first collaborative meeting. The same happens between your partner and their solicitor.

Next your solicitor and your partner’s solicitor meet or speak over the phone to plan the first collaborative meeting, which is known as a “four way” meeting.

At the first “four way” meeting you, your partner and your respective solicitors again go through the process explaining that you are working towards a collaborative agreement and you will all sign a document agreeing to this. You and your partner both say what it is you want to achieve and set the agenda for a subsequent meeting.

At subsequent meetings all the fine details are discussed and agreed, such as how the finances would be shared and any arrangements for your children and/or dependents. 

At the final meeting you and your partner will sign the documents that the solicitors have prepared detailing your agreed terms and decisions.

How long does the process take?

That all depends on how many four way meetings you will need, to reach an agreement. You might need just two, but then you might need more, maybe four or five. The fewer meetings you need the faster the process will be and the lower the overall costs.

Is collaborative law useful for things other than divorce?

Yes, collaborative law can be used in many situations. For instance a collaborative procedure is appropriate for making pre-nuptial and post-nuptial contracts, disputes between parents, and other family issues.

Can we use any solicitors or should we use specialists?

The collaborative process can only be undertaken solicitors who have been specially trained in it. If you are interested in talking to a collaborative law solicitor then we suggest you speak to one of our local QualitySolicitors with experience in collaborative law who can help make the process as quick and simple as possible.

Not only will we answer your queries but will provide you with a continuous update and you don’t have to worry about hidden costs.

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