Collaborative law is a constructive process for couples separating or divorcing which avoids the stress and cost of court.

What is collaborative practice in family law?

Each client appoints their own collaboratively trained lawyer and they and their respective lawyers all meet to work things out to achieve a resolution tailored to the needs of the whole family.

You can also work with an independent financial adviser, family consultant with counselling experience, child specialist or accountant who make up your collaborative "team". As no two family breakdowns are alike, the collaborative model enables you to resolve issues in a way which is right for you and your family. Couples can discuss, amongst other matters, issues which are child centred, in a respectful, supported environment.

How does the collaborative practice work in family law?

Each client and their "team" sign up to a "Participation Agreement" in which they agree to resolve matters collaboratively through a series of joint meetings (otherwise known as four-way meetings). The principles of co-operation, transparency, and respect for one another are enshrined in this agreement.

You and your spouse or partner set the agenda, objectives, and timetable for the four-way meetings during which information and documentation will be shared and interest-based negotiations take place. The meetings enable you to reach an agreement on a myriad of issues arising from the breakdown of your relationship, such as how your assets will be divided or what arrangements need to be made for the children. The glue holding the collaborative process together is that everyone has a vested interest in making the process work. Different lawyers have to step in if negotiations break down and you need to go to court or arbitration. By removing the immediate "see you in court" threat, you and your lawyers can focus together on doing everything possible to reach an agreement.

What are the benefits of the collaborative practice?

• You have your own legal advice and guidance throughout the process.

• It minimises the conflict in your separation/divorce and is therefore less stressful. Negotiations take place outside of a court in a more relaxed environment that helps parties come to an agreement.

• It is less expensive than litigation which allows parties to begin the chapter post separation on a firmer financial footing.

• It allows you to retain control of the decision-making and therefore you are more likely to stick to what has been agreed.

• Couples are more likely to retain dignity, integrity, and mutual respect.

• Customised solutions are possible which ensure everyone involved has a better outcome.

• Experts can be brought in as required.

• Lawyers work together not "against" one another in the interest of parties and their children.

• Not driven by a timetable imposed by the court and can be built around family/individual priorities.

• The process moves at a faster pace than litigation.

• Provides a platform for effective communication with your spouse/partner which can be built upon after the process has come to an end.

• The financial and emotional cost of acrimonious court proceedings is avoided.

•The uncertainty of litigation is avoided.

How is the collaborative practice different to mediation?

Mediation involves parties attending sessions with a trained neutral mediator. In mediation neither party is represented by the mediator and each party is encouraged to take independent legal advice throughout but apart from the process. Once a "consensus" is reached, a mediation summary is prepared which is then reviewed by each party's solicitor with a view to a final agreement being drawn up by parties' lawyers. During the collaborative process each party has the support of their solicitor throughout the entire negotiation culminating in a final agreement being reached. If one party does not feel able to speak up for themselves without their lawyer present, or lacks knowledge of the finances, the team-based approach used in the collaborative process may be a better choice to balance the power dynamic.

The collaborative model is not for everybody but if you opt for this, ensuring you have an experienced collaborative lawyer on board is the best way to ensure a positive outcome. At Brodies we have a team of experienced family lawyers who are collaboratively trained who can help.

For more information, please get in touch below.


Fiona Sharp

Senior Associate