Collaborative Law: finding solutions together
This month the family law experts from the Group’s specialist family and children law practice, McAlister Family Law, are guiding you through all you need to know about Alternative Dispute Resolution. Partner and Head of our Private Children Law division Ruth Hetherington works as a collaborative lawyer when dealing with divorce, finance and children issues in this area. “I believe that this approach brings with it a different perspective,” she says, “in that by working together with other collaborative lawyers, it is possible to better achieve possible settlement solutions.” Here she explains why, if you are going through a difficult separation or having relationship problems, collaborative law could be the process for you.
Sometimes talking things through can be the hardest challenge of all, especially when relationships break down. But almost always, particularly where there are children involved, the very best solutions are those which you work out together.
Collaborative law is a legal process which provides you with an‘out of court’ option.
Collaborative lawyers have to be trained to assist you through this process which consists of a series of meetings in which both you and your former partner have the support of your collaboratively trained lawyers, who are there to assist you to reach a solution.
The lawyers and the clients work together to reach agreements and to reach solutions without going to court. The process can go as quickly or as slowly as you would want, but outcomes generally are achieved in less time than the traditional routes of negotiating with lawyers and using the court process.
It provides you with a non-confrontational and amicable approach to achieving solutions, without correspondence going back and forth between solicitors.
When you attend your face-to-face meetings there is always an agenda to assist you, so you know what you are going to be discussing and afterwards the lawyers prepare minutes for you to be able to reference at any time through the process.
The process is more constructive and flexible and at the first meeting both of the lawyers and the clients sign a ‘participation agreement’ which when signed commits you to trying to resolve the issues outside of court, confirms that the process remains confidential, that all of the parties will act in a civil and amicable way to one another and sets out that if the process breaks down, and the matter progresses through the courts both of the clients would have to instruct new lawyers.
Our experience is this provides the focus and determination to reach an agreement and it is therefore an incentive to work through possible options, with the assistance of the lawyers and to come to a consensus, which can only mean you then create the best chance of building a better future for yourself.
Minimising the pain of family breakdown
Collaborative law is for couples who generally are seeking a fair solution and want to minimise the pain of family breakdown which is crucially important from the point of view of any children. In order to assist within the collaborative law process financial experts, barristers and family coaches, who are also trained, can be there to assist. If expert reports are needed there is also the option to obtain them within the collaborative law process, which again will help to reach an agreement.
It is an alternative way to deal with relationship breakdown and here at McAlister Family Law we pride ourselves in having two trained collaborative lawyers as well as our own in-house Family Law Arbitrator.