As Frank Sinatra said in the 1965 film Marriage on the Rocks, it is possible to divorce your loved one with dignity.
We often see clients who are in a situation where their marriage or relationship has broken down, but they are still amicable and want to resolve matters without it becoming acrimonious.
We are all members of Resolution at Beecham Peacock, a national organisation of family lawyers committed to resolving matters in a non-confrontational way. Dealing with matters collaboratively can be an ideal approach in these situations.
In a nutshell, the collaborative process is one whereby everyone commits to resolving matters without involving the court. Clients have said that they find the control they have over the situation helps them enormously, and issues can be raised and discussed which would not sit comfortably in the traditional system.
For matters to go ahead collaboratively, both parties have to have collaboratively trained lawyers. Here in the North East, we have many collaboratively-trained solicitors including Beecham Peacock, and the lawyers will work together with their clients to find a solution for everyone, including any children.
At the outset of the process, everyone signs a ‘participation agreement’ which explains how the negotiations will be conducted. It will confirm that everyone will try to resolve matters without going to court, but the key part of the participation agreement is that if the process breaks down, the two collaborative lawyers cannot be involved in any future court proceedings and both parties need to get new legal representation. The idea behind a participation agreement is that it keeps everyone in the process, even when things get difficult (which they sometimes do).
Clients also set out what they want to achieve in an ‘anchor statement’. Basically, these are statements setting out what the individual wants from the process and also the family’s post separation life. They are very useful for keeping everyone focused on their goal in the process.
Everyone works together in a series of four-way meetings (the number depending on the complexity of the case) sitting around the table. The meetings are informal and everyone is on first-name terms, but it is vital that everyone gives full disclosure of their assets for the process to work. Clients have the opportunity to ask whatever questions they want, and everything is discussed between the solicitors and their clients in an open and straightforward way.
All of the options can be discussed and agreed, and the whole process is usually far quicker than the traditional situation whereby letters are exchanged and clients seen separately.
Other collaborative experts can become involved in the process if necessary and here in the North East, we are fortunate in having access to family consultants as well as pension experts and financial advisors who are all familiar with the collaborative way of working.
One of the huge advantages for the parties in a collaborative process is that it can be dealt with at the parties’ own pace. That can be as fast or as slow as they want and are not bound by any sort of timetable which is what happens in a court situation. Clients can feel pushed along and rushed if matters go to court. It is rather like a snowball going down a hill, getting bigger and faster and more out of control as it goes. The outcome may be decided by a judge and suit neither party. Working collaboratively means everyone can stay in control of the outcome and achieve an appropriate result.
Resolution has done research which reveals that the success rate in collaborative cases is in excess of 85%. Clearly, if parties are committed to resolving matters collaboratively and everyone is working together to try to reach the best outcome, this would explain the statistic.
If you feel that you can trust yourself and your partner to be open about your financial positions, and to be fair to each other, it is worth considering whether you would feel comfortable about dealing with matters collaboratively.
If you would like more information about the collaborative process, please do not hesitate to contact one of our team.
Visit the Family Law advertiser websites for more information:
Beecham Peacock Solicitors - The Personal Injury, Employment, Crime and Family Law Solicitors in Newcastle
David Gray Solicitors - Family Divorce Immigration Civil Mediation Lawyers in Newcastle
Hay &: Kilner - Offering a complete commercial and personal legal service to clients – locally, nationally and overseas.
Pearson Caulfield Solicitors and Barristers - Based in Newcastle City Centre offering a full range of high quality, good value, fixed price legal services
Ward Hadaway - One of the UK’s Top 100 law firms and a major player in the North of England with offices in Newcastle, Leeds and Manchester.