Alternatives to court - collaborative law

The majority of disputes … are capable of consensual settlement… all cases which can be settled should be settled.

Lord Wilson SCJ
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Collaborative law is another non-adversarial alternative to court proceedings. It is a way of working which, as its name suggests, requires a separating couple, supported and assisted by their respective collaboratively trained solicitors, to collaborate and work together to resolve issues arising from their separation.

Collaborative law is a commitment. At the beginning of the process, you and your solicitor and your former partner and their solicitor all sign an agreement committing to resolving the issues between you without involving the court (other than to deal with the legal formalities of the divorce and to approve the financial settlement you reach). You agree at the outset that if the collaborative discussions and negotiations break down, and one or both of you wants to apply to the court to resolve matters, neither of you can continue with the same solicitors. This is a powerful way of keeping everyone committed to finding solutions without resorting to the court process.

You will each have meetings and telephone calls with your respective solicitors so that you can receive advice confidentially. Then, rather than the solicitors exchanging correspondence, you, your former partner and your respective solicitors will have a series of meetings in which discussions and negotiations take place. You will each be able to hear what is really important to each of you. You will know that your voice has been heard and you will be in control of the process, going at your own speed.

If you need to resolve financial issues, your respective solicitors will help you to put together a full package of financial disclosure so that you both know where you stand financially and what is available to be divided between you. There will be complete transparency. If there is anything which you do not understand, you will be able to ask questions there and then. You will be able to get to know and build trust in each other’s solicitor, because both solicitors will be as committed as the two of you to working towards an agreement which is fair to both of you.

If advice is needed from other professionals, such as pensions on divorce specialists, accountants or property valuers, such experts can be brought into the process.

When a final agreement is reached, your solicitors will draft a document called a consent order to put the terms of the agreement into legal language. This will be sent to the court for approval. A consent order is necessary to make the agreement legally binding. It ensures that you have the benefit of a legally enforceable order in the same way as you would have done had the court process been followed.

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