No. 14 - Collaborative Law
Normally, when a marriage ends, the spouses appoint solicitors who conduct negotiations on behalf of the parties at arms-length, either by letter or telephone. The divorce process can drag on for a long time and, in many cases, causes needless delay, frustration, and acrimony.
Many cases end up in court - which is not cheap. Last summer, Paul McCartney and Heather Mills were rumoured to have spent a combined total of £4 million on legal fees. In challenging economic times, many people simply cannot afford to go to court, and the collaborative law process has gained increasing popularity.
The fundamental objectives of collaborative law are to resolve disputes without going to court and to promote fair and conciliatory settlements. To start the process, the parties sign a contract not to go to court, to put the children first (if they have any), to treat each other with respect, to adopt a problem-solving stance and to put the interests of the family as a whole before their own individual interests.
It is a relatively new way of handling divorce. Each spouse still appoints a solicitor, but instead of negotiating through others or at a distance, the spouses meet to work things out face-to-face. The solicitors remain by their sides throughout, however, and therefore both spouses benefit from legal advice.
A recent study published in the Journal of Health and Social Behaviour argues that the extreme stress that accompanies a break up means divorced people are more likely to suffer from cancer, diabetes or heart disease than their married friends. Collaborative family law has been touted by many as way to minimise stress and stress-induced health issues.
Other advantages of collaborative family law include:
- It's designed to be non-aggressive, so the parties retain their dignity
- It helps parties maintain amicable contact, not only with each other, but with shared friends, each other's families, children, etc
- It gives the parties more control over events, while also providing the protection of expert advice
- It means the parties can avoid passing the case to a judge to arbitrarily decide important matters
- It's generally cheaper than going to court and pursuing a traditional divorce
- It is more likely that a final agreement is reached amicably and that both parties can live with the agreement without looking back in anger in the years ahead
- Because of the non-adversarial nature of the process, neither party becomes embittered or spiteful
Of course, collaborative law may not be everyone's cup of tea, but it should at least be considered.
** Additional Advice & Information **
You can obtain further information about divorce and family law on Findlaw. Depending on your circumstances, however, you may want to speak with a solicitor who specialises in family law. You can be matched with a solicitor in your area for free via solicitor matching services, which can also help you to understand the best course of action and whether you are ready to hire a solicitor.