What is Collaborative Family Law?
Collaborative Family Law is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR). It provides a way to resolve family disputes without having to go through court litigation.
How does Collaborative Family Law work?
To initiate the process you will both meet with your respective solicitors so that they can take instructions about your situation from you. If you decide that you wish to go ahead with collaboration, you will need to ensure that your ex-partner has already instructed or will instruct a collaborative family solicitor. It is important to note that you can only collaborate if you both have solicitors who are trained in Collaborative Family Law.
Once both parties have instructed collaborative solicitors, the solicitors will communicate to arrange the first meeting and to discuss any particular tricky issues which are likely to arise.
Collaboration offers flexibility to both parties as the law does not govern how the meetings should be structured or when those meetings should take place. It is down to both parties to decide the date, time and location of any meetings. Generally, the meetings will alternate between the two solicitors’ offices.
Once an agreement has been reached on when and where the first meeting should take place, both parties need to attend that meeting with their collaborative solicitors. The first meeting is held to go over the principles of Collaborative Family Law and for both parties to sign the Collaborative Participation Agreement.
Issues will generally be discussed over a number of meetings until an agreement is reached.
If an agreement is reached it is incorporated into a formal agreement which the Family Court is requested to approve in the form of a consent order.
What are the advantages and disadvantages?
Collaborative Family Law has many advantages. It is ideal where parties wish to resolve their issues and maintain family relationships in the future. It allows couples to focus on what they have in common rather than on their differences.
It is flexible and allows couples to resolve issues in a way in which they wish to resolve them, without being dictated to by a court. It focuses on meeting people’s interests rather than “wants”.
Collaborative Family Law will often be quicker and cheaper than going to court. Parties can often jointly instruct specialist third parties, for example financial advisers, to help them reach an agreement which benefits both parties, and not just one of them.
A disadvantage sometimes mentioned is that, if the collaborative process fails, both parties can no longer continue to instruct their respective solicitors and must instruct new solicitors. However, this is an important part of the collaborative process and, in practice, it is rare for collaborative cases to go on to be litigated because of the time and effort expended by everyone in the process to reach an agreement.
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