This a relatively new approach to family disputes, where each person has their own lawyer, but instead of negotiations being conducted by letter or telephone, you and your partner will meet together with lawyers to try and reach an agreement face to face. The difference between this and mediation is that in collaborative law you will have your lawyer with you throughout the entire process. The aim is to achieve a resolution of the family dispute without having to go to Court – What is collaborative law?
The Collaborative Law Process
Initially, having chosen a collaborative lawyer, you will meet with them individually to discuss what to expect from the meetings. These are usually referred to as “four-way meetings”, as they involve meetings between the four of you, yourself and your lawyer, your partner and their lawyer. There will be preparation to be done for the first of these meetings. Your lawyer and your partner’s lawyer will then discuss by telephone or face to face, what preparations are necessary for the first meeting.
The First Meeting
At the first four-way meeting, an agreement will be signed by the parties and lawyers, making a commitment to working at an agreement without going to Court. Objectives will be discussed and an agenda will be planned, depending on the individual circumstances. There may be discussions about other issues that you wish to cover, such as issues surrounding children.
The subsequent four-way meetings will be arranged and will deal with the issues that you and your partner wish to cover in achieving an agreement. There may be a need to bring in other professionals, such as Independent Financial Advisers, specialists in pensions. The aim of the meetings will be to enable you to reach an agreement together on how the finances will be resolved, or what arrangements you wish to make for the children.
The Final Meeting
The two lawyers will prepare documents setting out the agreements that have been reached between you, and in the final meeting, these documents will be discussed and signed by you. The whole process can be completed to a timetable driven by you and your partner. In this way, the negotiations are not driven by a Court timetable and can be tailored to the family needs and timetable.
Frequently asked Questions
What is the difference between Collaborative Law and Mediation?
With Mediation, no legal advice will be given during the sessions as a Mediator is an impartial facilitator. Each party would need to seek legal advice after each Mediation session, which can be more drawn out and expensive. It can also mean that an agreement can unravel in Mediation if, when the parties see their respective lawyers, it appears that the proposed settlement is not sensible or fair. In Collaborative Law, the couple would each have their own lawyer present and legal advice can be given in each session where appropriate. Legal advisors can guide the couple as to whether different options are within a range that the Court would approve.
How long does it take to reach an agreement?
With Collaborative Law, the timetable is set by the couple themselves, so it can go at a pace that they feel is right for them and their family. Many couples reach an agreement within 2-3 sessions although a more complex case would require more.
How much does it cost?
Although costs can vary from case to case, depending on how complex each case is and the number of meetings required, we understand the need to give realistic cost estimates. The typical cost of a Collaborative case is between £1,500 – £3,000 plus VAT each, and we do now offer some fixed fees. Please contact us for details.
Does my spouse/partner need a Collaborative Lawyer?
Yes, for the Collaborative Law process to be successful, both parties need a collaboratively trained lawyer, someone with the right approach. There is a list of trained Collaborative Lawyers on www.notinghamcollaborativelaw.co.uk . Alternatively for Lawyers outside of the Nottingham area, see www.resolution.org.uk
Why choose Collaborative Law?
The process enables a couple to stay in control of the decisions, but with the benefit of your own independent legal advice. It also takes away the worry of Court proceedings hanging over you. We feel it often offers the best opportunity to reach a fair solution, one that is best for you and your family, whilst minimising the pain of a family breakdown.
Is Collaborative Law always suitable?
No, it is not always appropriate. There needs to be a willingness on the part of both parties to work towards reaching a fair settlement and there will still need to be full financial disclosure. It is also unlikely that the Collaborative Law process will be appropriate in cases where there have been domestic abuse.