By Sue Baker, Field Seymour Parkes Solicitors, firstname.lastname@example.org
Most of us view the prospect of divorce with a great deal of trepidation. Whether you are the petitioning party or responding to proceedings brought by your spouse, you will have visions of sitting in a court room with her saying “take him for all he’s got” or him saying “I’ll make myself bankrupt before I pay her a penny”; or the other way round of course. The only winners in such a scenario are likely to be the lawyers who will make a hefty fee out of a totally miserable situation.
Many people facing divorce will have children. Is it really in their interests to make an enemy of your former spouse? They will surely not relish the experience of their parents at each other’s throats, talking to each other through lawyers, each trying to point-score against the other. Surely this cannot be good for the emotional wellbeing of the spouses either. Who amongst us relishes the thought of going to court, being cross-examined about how we have conducted ourselves during the marriage, and with our financial affairs being open for all to see? If such a scenario fills you with dread, and you are facing the prospect of a divorce, you might like to consider adopting the concept of collaborative law to resolve the various issues you will face when it comes to bringing your marriage to an end. Collaborative law is a concept that has been brought over to the UK from the US. A US lawyer called Stu Webb started an organisation in the US, to which several other lawyers later subscribed, all of whom were of a similar view, that there must be a better way of resolving family disputes than going to court.
In England, attention started to be given to the collaborative movement in 2002 and there are now almost 1,000 lawyers in the UK who are trained in collaborative law.
One of the key principals of collaborative law is that the divorcing couple, their respective lawyers and other professionals (such as accountants, actuaries or IFAs if needed) can work together to help that couple resolve the problems which result from the breakdown of their relationship. The tasks associated with reaching a settlement may be multi-faceted. Such tasks may involve seeking the assistance of a tax adviser who will assist the couple in considering their future financial planning, or from a family consultant if a couple are having difficulties in communicating.
The aim is that everyone works as a team. The process is transparent and lines of communication are open. There is a commitment by everyone within the process to do their utmost to ensure that a final agreement is reached amicably and which both husband and wife can live with in the future. Many come out of the process as friends rather than as enemies embittered by their experience of the court process.
The process is not for everyone. It is not cheap either, though it is undoubtedly cheaper than a long drawn-out court battle. If agreement cannot be reached using the process and the couple do decide that court is the only answer, neither party will be able to retain the lawyer or other experts used within the collaborative process. However, if the process does work, and most who embark upon the process demonstrate the necessary level of commitment to make it work, you will come out the other end with a sense of fairness and a sense of justice having been achieved.