Collaborative Law – An Alternative Approach to Divorce

After bereavement and house purchase/selling, divorce has been described as one of the most traumatising events a person can go through. It affects every part of your life and has an impact both emotionally and financially.

An increasing number of lawyers from the Devon and Cornwall area have undertaken Collaborative Law training so they can offer an alternative to the normal court process.

What is Collaborative Law?

In the Collaborative Law process both parties have a lawyer at their side throughout the entire process and therefore benefit from immediate legal advice as the matter progresses. The majority of the case is conducted by the lawyers and the parties together around a table in what is referred to as a 'four-way meeting'. Within Collaborative Law there is a complete change of emphasis with everyone involved to problem solve rather than fight to win. The lawyers themselves have an interest in the process as if the matter is not settled within the Collaborative Law process then those lawyers can have no further involvement in the case.

There are still rules within the Collaborative Law which the parties sign up to. The parties agree to be open and honest and disclose all documents. Each party agrees to act respectfully towards each other and look to the future rather than apportioning blame in the past.

Benefits of Collaborative Law

One of the biggest differences in the Collaborative Law process is that it recognises that emotional issues exist that cannot be addressed by the legal system. How many times have we heard stories of divorcing parties spending several hundred pounds to argue about pets or furniture? Generally speaking, the parties in such cases are not arguing about dogs, cats or furniture but instead are re-acting to the psychological pains that they are experiencing. Emotional issues are ignored in the court process. By contrast, the Collaborative Law process specifically addresses these issues by bringing them to the forefront and if necessary involving counsellors or professionals as part of a team approach to find solutions.

So often, children become the unintended victims in divorce proceedings. They internalise the conflict and often blame themselves for the break-up of the family. Within the Collaborative Law process it is possible for specialist to help to be sought not only to reduce the impact of divorce on children but also assist the children in understanding that the parental dispute is not their fault.

In traditional cases, which proceed through the court, 90% are resolved without a final hearing by way of negotiation. However, a solution often comes after possibly years have elapsed and after significant emotional distress and many hurtful statements have been made. The Collaborative Law process tries to avoid that emotional harm so that both the parties and the children are able to continue to move on with their lives without deep emotional scars.

Collaborative Law will not work in every case. However, in cases where Collaborative Law has been used, settlements have been reached often after three to six sessions. A number of Collaborative Law cases have ended with hugs between the parties, , something which is rarely see at the end of a court case.

Wolferstans offer a specific Collaborative Law service which includes two Collaborative Law specialists, Philip Thorneycroft and Mala Mandalia. If you think that Collaborative Law may well be the way forward for you, please contact our New Client Coordinator Sarah Webb on telephone number 01752 292239.

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