Collaborative Family Law
What is Collaborative Law?
Collaborative Law appears to be the buzz word amongst many family lawyers at the present time. It essentially involves both lawyers getting together with their clients to “collaborate” a settlement of both parties’ claims against each other as a result of the divorce.
The idea behind it is that both parties and their solicitors must make a special effort to encourage the clients towards an overall settlement in order to reduce the aggravation between the two of them and save costs.
The benefits of the collaborative law approach are trumpeted as follows:-
- It is in the interests of the family that the husband and the wife reach a sensible agreement (rather than fight it out in Court).
- Both parties will have a much greater say in the final result than they would if it goes to Court and a decision is made by a Judge.
- It is less expensive than the traditional ways of resolving these types of disputes.
Having said all that, there is a growing school of thought which is not quite as supportive of collaborative law.
That school of thought makes the following points:-
- There are many couples who do not wish to sit in the same room as each other, and therefore, find the whole process of collaborative law unappealing for that very reason alone.
- The costs advantages of collaborative law are not always clear cut. It is not necessarily an inexpensive process for two sets of lawyers and their clients to get together over the course of several meetings.
- Many people do not realise that if the collaborative lawyers fail to reach an agreement on their behalf – the clients then need to instruct new solicitors and incur additional expense in doing so.
A number of lawyers point out that collaborative law is a little bit like the emperor’s new clothes.
After all, efficient and well briefed specialist family lawyers have been collaborating cases on behalf of their clients for many years by putting forward sensible proposals and negotiating a proper agreement based upon those proposals and the other party’s counter proposals.
Perhaps the ultimate compromise is “collaborative lite”. This is the procedure whereby both lawyers negotiate sensibly (and meet with the clients if necessary) in order to try and reach an agreement. If there is no agreement – both lawyers are still free to make an application to the Court.