Recently my colleague Gemma Garrett and I both completed two days of training to become Collaborative Lawyers. I have put together this blog to provide some insight into Collaborative Law as a process to resolve disputes, highlight the benefits of a collaborative approach and identify who it might appeal to.

Alternative Dispute Resolution within family law is at the core of Family Law Partners. When I joined the firm in October 2019 and the opportunity to train as a collaborative lawyer was presented to me, I jumped at the opportunity. The course to become collaboratively trained, which took place over three days, was insightful and extremely thought provoking. I feel that I learnt new skill sets that will not only apply within the collaborative process, but my day to day work as a family lawyer.

What is Collaborative Law?

Collaborative Law is a form of dispute resolution used as an alternative to court proceedings and other forms of alternative dispute resolution. It involves the instruction, by each party, of a collaborative lawyer and the entering into of a Collaborative Participation Agreement (the Agreement). The participation agreement confirms that the parties will negotiate in good faith and in a transparent and open way. In signing up to the Agreement the parties, including their collaborative lawyers, sign a disqualification clause indicating that if they are unable to agree matters and issue court proceedings, they will dispense with the service of their current lawyers and instruct new lawyers.

Throughout the collaborative process the issues are often resolved in face-to-face meetings, thereby limiting the cost of correspondence. The process is generally considered to offer a more holistic approach where the parties and their lawyers may also work with other trained professionals, for example actuaries and IFA’s, who are also collaboratively trained, to reach an agreement in the interests of the parties.

When is it suitable?

Collaboratively trained lawyers can be used to resolve any issue that is family or relationship based, however it is not suitable in cases of domestic violence due to an imbalance of power and the face-to-face aspect of the meetings. A non-exhaustive list of issues that a Collaborative Lawyer could assist with includes:

  • Pre-nuptial agreements.
  • Post-nuptial agreements.
  • Financial disputes including children and spouses.
  • Separation issues.

What are the benefits of Collaborative Law vs the Court System?

There are several benefits to the collaborative process which include: –

  1. Each parties’ concerns are addressed and voiced at every stage. This often makes the parties feel that they have a greater degree of control over the outcome. In comparison, and within the court process, unless matters are resolved prior to the final hearing, the judge will decide the outcome.
  2. It is open policy – nothing is hidden from either side and the concept of legal privilege is waived.
  3. Correspondence between the collaborative lawyers is generally not antagonistic nor extensive which, in turn, should reduce costs.
  4. More informal and less adversarial than court proceedings. The collaborative process can be a lot less stressful because of its informal nature and flexibility.
  5. Less costly than going to court and typically quicker. Often within the collaborative process cases can be resolved swiftly, compared to court proceedings where it can take several months and sometimes years. In turn this reduces the legal costs incurred by both parties.
  6. More time is spent on the problems themselves and figuring out a suitable outcome desired by both parties.

How we can help

If you would like more information about the collaborative process, then please do not hesitate to contact one of the team at Family Law Partners. We are committed to alternative dispute resolution where appropriate, with most of the team being qualified in at least one form of alternative dispute resolution method.

Rachel is based in Family Law Partners’ Horsham office, where the team advise clients in Horsham, Billingshurst, Godalming, Cranleigh, Guildford, Crawley and surrounding areas.

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