Separation is never easy. The stress generated by the process can push a couple even further apart than they are already. It can leave them feeling damaged by the process itself and unable to communicate with one another. Where children are involved, this can cause even greater problems for the whole family for many years to come.
Experience shows that the way separation is dealt with can make a huge difference to how quickly and fairly issues are resolved and how well couples and children cope after the separation on a personal level and in managing their ongoing family relationships.
Hundreds of clients have benefitted from using the collaborative approach to their separation or divorce. Collaboration is designed to minimize hostility and conflict, and instead re-focus the clients on the constructive, mutually satisfactory methods of arriving at solutions. This is of particular significance and benefit where children are involved, since research has shown that conflict is particularly damaging to children. Collaborative practice is extremely flexible, it allows the clients, working together with their professional team, to explore creative solutions to fit their circumstances on both a short and long term basis. This may lead to agreements which are not constrained by posturing, rigid positions and formulas which can characterise traditional negotiations or court - imposed results.
Collaboration aims to allow a couple to directly influence and participate in all decisions relating to their separation. It provides each of them the chance to listen to the other side’s viewpoint and have their own viewpoint considered as well.
Collaborative practice offers the potential for the clients to learn and improve their communication, negotiation and problem solving skills which they can then carry forward into the future. These skills can help avoid or minimize future conflict.
So what is Collaborative Practice?
Collaborative Law is a dispute resolution process founded on the following core elements:
- A pledge to negotiate a mutually acceptable settlement without going to court to resolve the dispute
- Honest and good faith communication and exchange of information
- A goal of creating shared solutions that take into account the interests of both parties and the children of the marriage
- Withdrawal of all professional if either client chooses to go to court
In the collaborative process each party retains a solicitor who is specially trained in the collaborative process. Each client can have as many “two way” meetings with their own solicitor as they wish. They attend “fourway” meetings where the two clients, together with their respective solicitors discuss the parties separation, and negotiate a solution which is tailor made for the parties, taking into account the needs and wishes of each client. The clients fully participate in and are in control of the process.
Additionally, the clients can agree to bring in other professionals, such as financial advisors child specialists, health professionals, and counsellors, to assist in reaching a solution.
Collaborative procedure can save costs in that the parties jointly instruct other professionals with the costs being shared. In the traditional negotiation, each party usually instruct their own independent professionals.
The hallmarks of the Collaborative Model include:
- A shared commitment to proceed honestly, respectfully and in good faith with the voluntary disclosure of information and facts material to resolution of the issues
- Avoidance of litigation or the threat of litigation
- Active participation by the clients, gathering and sharing of information relating to the children, assets and debts, discussing options and agreement on solutions
- Identification of the shared goals of each of the clients together with each client’s interests and concerns, searching for solutions which meet the needs of each client as far as possible
- The opportunity to work with other professionals in a team in order to benefit from the experience and skills of each professional
- Joint retention of experts and a sharing of the costs of such experts and other professionals
- Disqualification of all team professionals and solicitors involved in the Collaborative Law process from participation in any litigation between the clients
Collaborative Law is well suited for non-marital and same sex separations for couples involved in separation whether married, co-habiting or in civil partnership.
However, the Collaborative Law process is not a panacea. It is very much dependant on the good faith participation of each party and their professional team. Clients must be willing to participate with one another in face to face “four way” meetings and, with the assistance of solicitors or other professionals, to communicate honestly and negotiate directly with each other. This involves taking personal responsibility for communication and negotiating agreements, rather than having the solicitors do all the talking and negotiating for them. Clients must also be willing to consider the needs and interests of the other party in addition to their own needs and interests.
Our Head Partner Sally Swinney is trained in the collaborative procedure, she is passionate about the resolution of family disputes without recourse to the courts. She wholeheartedly believes that difficulties surrounding separations should be dealt with, so far as is possible, between the parties in a way which leads to the future improvement in communication for the benefit of the parties and their children. Children should be cocooned from the effects of separation as much as possible and the collaborative process is the best aid to achieve that. Sally has access to other professionals who she regularly calls on to assist with collaborations when needed.
If you would like to find out further information or how we can support you through the process please contact