Collaborative Divorce

Collaborative Divorce and Family Law

Expert Divorce Solicitors & Trusted Family Lawyers

Separation and divorce tend to be unsettling, even when at their most straightforward. Sometimes, the transition can become emotionally fraught and challenging for those involved. However, on a more positive note, collaborative family law is now a realistic option for those couples whose marriage is ending.

To discover more, please continue reading. Below, we explain collaborative divorce, how it works and why it is often the best choice when a married couple decides to part.

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What is collaborative divorce law?

Collaborative divorce seeks to make the legal, financial and childcare aspects of separation as smooth and amicable as possible. The key aim is for the divorcing couple to achieve an agreement without resorting to court proceedings.

To guide the parties through their divorce, trained collaborative lawyers work with each other and their clients to find a solution that works for everyone. Naturally, this approach is quicker, more economical and less stressful than traditional adversarial court action.

How does collaborative divorce work?

Both parties have their dedicated family law solicitor during the collaborative divorce process. As well as these trained representatives, the collaborative approach involves working with a family consultant and other professionals, where necessary.

During a series of meetings and through cooperation, the separating couple navigates the emotional aspects of their divorce. They work to agree on solutions and find a way forward for everyone. If they reach a satisfactory agreement, the lawyers draft the necessary legal documents to formalize the outcome.

Why choose collaborative divorce?

Collaborative divorce is a less harmful way to end a marriage. It reduces delays and costs because both sides cooperate and endeavour to put their differences to one side. Significantly, it avoids the characteristic advocacy and hostile barrister cross-examinations of court hearings.

In typical court proceedings, a judge makes all the decisions. However, there have been cases where both sides have been unhappy with the result. In contrast, the collaborative approach enables the soon-to-be ex-husband and wife to retain some control over the outcome of the divorce, bearing in mind the imperative to reach an understanding.

Of course, opting for a collaborative divorce will likely be less traumatic or disturbing for families with children. Because there is a clear focus on the best interests of minors, both parents work together to create a parenting plan and put it into practice – without impeding its principles or creating difficulties.

Smoothing the end of a marriage

Working with experienced, collaboratively trained solicitors is essential if you are considering a collaborative divorce. Your advisors will guide you at each stage and help you reach a fair agreement.

Rather than going to court, collaborative family law puts into place a series of commitments that benefit the entire family through agreement. The technique is flexible and team-based.

Four-way meetings involve the divorcing couple and their family lawyers. Other professionals in collaborative family law include accountants, child specialists, family consultants and mental health specialists, sometimes called divorce coaches.

Starting a collaborative divorce

The collaborative approach facilitates decision-making and the transition into two new households. The four steps of collaborative divorce are:

  • Retain collaborative lawyers.
  • Sign a participation agreement.
  • Hold four-way collaborative meetings.
  • Sign the negotiated separation agreement.

Typically, the process involves two to four meetings. The first session includes introductions, reviewing and signing a Participation Agreement, setting expectations and discussing ground rules. The collaborative lawyers then agree on an agenda to deal with the issues.

The separating couple commits to engaging in honest and respectful communication and negotiation. The process requires full and frank disclosure of financial and other relevant information. Occasionally, compromise may be necessary. During and between the meetings, the team gathers information by exchanging document requests between the family lawyers and consulting experts if needed.

Each side can opt for joint support from a neutral divorce coach or have individual divorce coaches. These trained experts help to maintain communication, develop parenting plans and foster effective co-parenting. In some cases, it is advisable to retain a child psychologist to give minors a voice and develop strategies to meet their needs.

Notably, participation agreements usually include a disqualification clause which states that if either side were to initiate legal action in the family courts, the collaborative process would terminate. Furthermore, the lawyers involved would no longer represent their clients. Such clauses prevent couples from abandoning the collaborative process; in such an event, both parties would need new legal representatives.

Negotiating in good faith

Collaborative family law is child-centred and an excellent dispute resolution option, even where there is considerable disagreement and conflict. Collaborative divorce only requires that the couple is willing to engage in good-faith negotiations and will initiate court action.

The results reflect what is vital to both parties and are usually more satisfactory and less subject to challenges. However, while collaborative family law has various benefits, it may not be suitable when there is:

  • A history of family violence.
  • The need for emergency protection, i.e. a restraining order.
  • Likelihood of an aggressive or adversarial approach.
  • Failure on the part of one spouse to engage in the collaborative divorce process.
  • Concern that one spouse might be hiding or dissipating assets.
  • A history of hiding financial information.
  • A significant power imbalance.
  • Exclusive possession of the family home.

Fair and just agreements

Court cases often escalate a conflict, foster animosity and affect children adversely. In addition, research shows that parental conflict – rather than the divorce itself – leads to negative consequences.

Conversely, collaborative family law is private and confidential. So instead of litigating and running up expensive legal bills, the couple works consensually with collaborative lawyers to create a just and long-lasting agreement. These documented agreements are legally binding contracts and enforceable by a judge. Typically, they cover parenting, child support, spousal support and the division of family assets and debts.

Support from collaboratively trained solicitors

If you are looking for a family law solicitor in the southeast, we can help. Our team of collaborative lawyers is committed to helping clients reach an agreement that works for everyone. Divorce can be difficult and emotional; we are here to guide you.

At Goodlaw Solicitors, our team of family consultants provides the support and legal advice you need to navigate the collaborative law process. Please contact us today to learn more about how the collaborative approach can help you with your divorce or separation.

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