How Collaborative Law Makes Divorce Fairer

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Going through a divorce is usually a stressful time, with plenty of bitterness and anger. The high emotional price is often compounded by soaring legal costs, and can seriously affect both the couple separating and their families. Furthermore, the amount of paperwork and lengthy waiting periods for court appearances all help ruin any chances of a functioning relationship post divorce. Collaborative law, however, offers the chance for a more amicable divorce.

Since 2003,when collaborative law came into force in the UK, couples are given the chance to sort out their problems in several face to face meetings, with both parties and their lawyers are present. To prepare for the meetings, each party has meetings with their lawyers to work out what points they want to discuss in the joint meetings. Lawyers keep the correspondence between themselves to a minimum and at an initial meeting sign an agreement that says that they won't take the case to court. They will also agree to a full and frank financial disclosure, and to keep negotiations confidential. If the couple cannot reach an agreement in these meetings, each partner must find a new lawyer as the collaborative lawyer cannot represent their clients in court. Such a structure makes seeking a final settlement incentivised, speeding up the divorce process from the traditional route.

Divorce cases often result in anger and sadness with any remaining good feelings between a couple destroyed. In collaborative law, the focus is on keeping the relationship between the couple after the marriage has finished, particularly if children are involved. The collaborative law process means that the couple can keep control of their decisions, as opposed to having a judge make the decisions for them. Although collaborative law divorces are still legal processes that have a cost, settling the divorce outside of court can be good for both people involved. Outside professionals such as financial advisers can be brought in to help make any decisions on dividing up assets or making financial allowances, with both parties' lawyers present to give legal guidance. Unlike with a court process, no timeframe for an ending is set, allowing a couple to set their own agenda, and this can help in easing negotiations towards a final agreement.

An out of court settlement can be the best way for a couple to move onto the next stage of their lives, and collaborative law, with its structure around face to face discussion and problem solving, can make a swift divorce a fair and satisfying conclusion for both parties.


Tim Bishop is senior partner at Bonallack and Bishop ( ), a firm of specialist Divorce Solicitors with experience in Family Mediation and Collaborative Law. He is responsible for all major strategic decisions and has grown the firm by 1000% in the last 12 years. Tim sees himself as a businessman who owns a law firm and has firm plans for continued expansion.

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