Collaborative Family Law and Mediation
Collaborative family law is a new development and follows on from the widespread interest in mediation. Both approaches to dispute resolution are designed to allow people to come to an agreed conclusion without the need to attend court and ask a judge to make the final decision which can be a long and costly process. Indeed, most separating couples are now required to attend a Mediation Intake Session before applying to the Courts.
Mediation is a controlled process in which an impartial third person (usually a lawyer) assists those involved in family breakdown. A typical meeting would be held with the couple and a mediator who is appointed by both. The mediator does not represent either side but acts independently in the interests of ensuring that issues are aired fairly, are properly discussed in a controlled and rational manner and any conclusion reached is fully understood by each side. Once an “agreement” has been reached the couple will instruct lawyers to conclude the matter as agreed during the mediation sessions. Agreements made in mediation are not binding and rely upon the good will of each side to proceed as agreed in the mediation sessions.
Mediation is confidential and relies on the open and frank exchange of views and financial information. You are in control of the outcome. You are not committed to anything unless you both agree to so be. At worst, it is worth a try and at best, it will make the process less harmful, expensive and traumatic for any children that may be involved.
Collaborative law differs in that each side appoints their own collaborative lawyers (these lawyers have to be trained and qualified in collaborative law). Each lawyer whilst working in the interests of their client will not start court proceedings to resolve any dispute. Lawyers on both sides will talk to each other and exchange information and meet with the couple together. There can be as many of these 4 way meetings as required to deal with all the issues. A timetable can be devised at these meetings and the time taken to conclude the matter can be much shorter that the traditional approach. If the collaborative process breaks down then the parties involved will need to appoint new lawyers to conduct the divorce or separation in the traditional manner i.e. through the Courts. The time delay and cost of this provides a good incentive for both parties to stay with the collaborative process to an agreed conclusion and have a “good divorce”.
With both of these approaches, separating and divorcing couples are encouraged to communicate better with one another. They are helped to come to their own agreed decisions about some or all of the issues relating to, or arising from, the separation or divorce.
Collaboration or mediation cannot mend relationships, but it can help as it is often the first time that serious emotional issues can be discussed by people whom, for whatever reason, have not been able to really communicate with each other for ages. I would be happy to offer a free consultation to discuss the benefits and mechanics of collaborative law and/or mediation. If you wish to proceed collaboratively then I can only meet with the person who I will be representing but if you chose mediation I could explore the process with both of the people involved. This work will be carried out in my offices, or in the case of the collaborative process in either lawyer’s office, which will provide a safe neutral environment where tempers will be managed and discussions will be meaningful.