With the Courts in England & Wales struggling with significant backlogs, this is the second of a series of articles where Family law expert, Sally Harris, explores alternative routes to resolve matrimonial financial claims without waiting months for a Court date.
What is collaborative law?
Collaborative Law is when separating parties agree to work together with the assistance of their respective lawyers to seek a settlement without using the Courts.
Why Collaborative Law?
It can be an excellent alternative to the traditional Court process for some couples. Both parties and their respective lawyers sign up at the outset to use the collaborative process. A document is produced and shared which sets out the overall objectives the parties wish to achieve. This can be anything from maintaining cordial relations for future co-parenting or retaining the family home until the children are older.
How does it work – the pros and cons?
- Four way meetings are held with both parties and lawyers present.
- Other experts as necessary can be included in the four way meetings such as accountants and independent financial advisors.
- There is no limit as to the number of meetings taking place or how quickly they are held.
- The parties agree the timetable that suits them and their particular family circumstances.
- Face to face meetings can be a very positive way forward, progressing discussions more swiftly than the traditional exchange of solicitors’ correspondence. Each parties’ position can be made clear carrying less risk of misinterpretation through e-mail or traditional correspondence. The parties are able to speak frankly safe in the knowledge that the meetings will be structured and carried out in a respectful way.
- When the parties and lawyers sign up to the collaborative process, they agree not to go to Court and to find a settlement. If they fail to settle, or agree that Court proceedings are necessary, the current lawyers must stand down and new lawyers are instructed. This typically ensures a strong commitment to see matters move forward productively to settlement.
- Legal representation is essential for the collaborative process but can still be less expensive than a long running Court battle ending in a Final Hearing.
- Collaborative Law has been particularly suited to and successful where there is an ongoing family business e.g. farming. It is to both parties’ benefit for the business to continue to thrive during the negotiations and after settlement.
- When agreement is reached a consent order is drafted, approved by all and signed. This is filed with the Court for Court approval. There is no need for either party to attend Court or a Hearing.
Collaborative Law can reduce legal costs, gives parties flexibility and they remain in control of the settlement process. It is less confrontational than traditional negotiations and can leave the parties and the family better able to move forward positively for the future.
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