Collaborative divorce is one of the processes available to separating couples seeking to resolve any dispute they have in a non-confrontational way. It avoids the participants having to engage in antagonistic contested court proceedings which are often very lengthy and costly. It involves a commitment to approaching issues with openness and in good faith which encourages mutual respect and can be used to address issues relating to:
- Arrangements for children
- Matrimonial finances
- Money and property
The collaborative process
At the outset both parties and their respective collaborative divorce lawyers sign a “participation agreement” which sets out the ground rules of the process. A series of “four-way” meetings take place attended by the separating couple and the collaborative solicitors acting for each of them. Everyone works together at these meetings to reach an agreement. So that everyone is committed to resolving the dispute without recourse to contested court proceedings, the solicitors cannot continue to act for their client if an agreement cannot be reached.
Collaborative law gives separating couples a substantial degree of control over the process of negotiating a settlement; what they want to discuss and the pace of the process.
Collaborative divorce is probably no more or less expensive for clients than if they had taken their dispute to court and resolved it at an early stage in the proceedings. It will however usually be cheaper than going all the way to a final hearing in such proceedings.
Court proceedings can inflame acrimony between a couple at huge emotional cost to the family. Collaborative law seeks to preserve communication channels and ensure that separated couples can effectively manage their relationship in future for the benefit of all family members. This is often very important for couples but cannot be quantified in monetary terms.
What can collaborative law be used for?
Collaborative law can be used for disputes relating to dividing matrimonial finances and arrangements for children. Sometimes using it allows people to come to conclusions that would not necessarily be adopted in the court process. It allows greater freedom of discussion and can take into account issues that traditional legal proceedings do not. The Wellers Law family team boasts specialist collaborative divorce lawyers who are trained and highly experienced in this field.
Mediation is an alternative method used to resolve the issues that result when couples decide to separate. It is a voluntary process whereby a qualified mediator assists the participants to reach a mutually acceptable agreement with the least tension and hostility, avoiding costly contested court proceedings.
How does mediation work?
A mediator does not provide legal advice on divorce or counselling but provides impartial input to enable couples to reach an agreement that they are both content with. Mediators are trained to help couples reach an agreement about how to make the best arrangements for the future, including:
- Consideration of the way children may be cared for.
- Who will live where?
- How finances will be organised.
Mediation is considered one of the most amicable and cost effective ways to agree issues arising from separation.
Mediators guide couples away from the concept of rights and liabilities, and assist them to reach an agreement which meets their children’s and their own needs and interests. Decisions are made by the participants rather than a court ‘imposing’ a decision that neither may be happy with. Agreements reached in mediation revolve around reaching practical and fair solutions for both involved and any children.
Agreements reached in mediation can be formalised into a Consent Court Order, where appropriate, and then become legally binding.
How many sessions are involved?
Mediation is a flexible process so there is no set number of sessions. However, typically there will be between three and five sessions, each lasting an hour and a half. However, sometimes agreements can be reached in one or two sessions.
Mediation information and assessment meetings (MIAM)
Since 2011 anyone who wants to make a court application in relation to the vast majority of private family law matters, which includes any applications relating to either finances or children’s issues, needs to attend a meeting with a suitably qualified mediator. This is an opportunity for the mediator to provide information and assess whether the matter is suitable for mediation. If not suitable for mediation, the mediator can provide and sign the appropriate form which then enables the parties to commence court proceedings or explore options other than mediation
Child consultation and mediation between parents/older teenage children
Many parents feel it is beneficial for their children to have a voice in the decisions that are being made on their behalf. Mediators can provide ‘direct child consultation’ which involves the mediator meeting with a child/children to ascertain their views in an informal manner. Parents often find this information useful when discussing ideas and making decisions in regard to the arrangements for their children. Mediators undertake further extensive training in order to be able to carry out ‘direct child consultation’.
Some parents find it useful to have a mediation session with their older teenage child if problems have arisen within the relationship that may be resolved by both attending a meeting with an impartial third party- the mediator.
Finding a mediator
At Wellers Law Group LLP we work closely with a number of local mediation services and should you wish to resolve your case by way of mediation we can make an appropriate referral for you. You do not need to have a divorce solicitor with you when you attend mediation sessions, but it can be useful, especially if you aim to resolve the financial issues of divorce.
Many of our solicitors are members of Resolution (formerly the Solicitors Family Law Association) and are committed to resolving your matter in a constructive and non-confrontational manner whenever possible. Resolution members follow a Code of Practice dedicated to promoting a constructive approach to divorce and separation which considers the needs of the family as a whole; particularly the interests of children.
Resolution members receive national and regional training and the organisation campaigns to raise public awareness and understanding of family law issues, as well as for improvements to the family justice system.
For more information on collaborative law, contact us on 020 8464 4242 for our Bromley team, 01732 457575 for Sevenoaks, 020 7481 6393 for central London or 01372 750100 for Surrey.