Re: Spring 2013 - Page 26

New way to divorce promises happier results without the court battle Hundreds of thousands of separating parents use the courts to resolve their private battles every year. Finding delays and frustrations are everyday occurrences the 2011 Family Justice Review concluded “children deserve better”. Fans of a new way to divorce say it achieves better results, costs less and actively avoids a fight. “Collaborative law is the absolute opposite of the adversarial legal system. As lawyers we have to turn ourselves inside out and start from scratch” says family lawyer Lisa Burton-Durham. I spoke to Lisa at a workshop for counsellors and family lawyers. The need to change the divorce process was spelled out by fellow collaborative lawyer Jo O’Sullivan: “80 percent of people who split up see a solicitor before any other professional. If they instruct Rottweiler & Co it can go from bad to worse. Divorce is treated as a legal process, but it’s actually an emotional experience with legal consequences. Collaborative law recognises that.” Lisa agrees “After facing each other across the courtroom people almost never recover anything close to a decent relationship. Over months the process stokes up all the bad feeling between you. People want their day in court, to feel justified and get what they think is right, but nobody leaves the process feeling like they got a fair deal. Lawyers like us who have our frustrations with the system have wanted something like collaborative law for years.” It is particularly suited to couples with children who have to maintain some kind of relationship as parents. Most psychologists say that while separation is stressful, it is the fighting that is most harmful for children. Sadly few separations come without a long and difficult dispute. Under the usual processes a court date is set at the start of proceedings, but only five percent of separations actually reach court. Most are settled through negotiations that take place by letter. Written by solicitors, these letters are combative by nature. Each solicitor is fighting for their client’s best case. As collaborative lawyer Anna Glenton puts it “We’re all stuck in this system batting the ball back with angry letters.” With collaborative law negotiations happen face to face and although talks are often difficult, they are designed to diffuse anger. Under the collaborative system each partner has their own specially trained lawyer by their side during meetings. This is an important distinction from mediation where there is only one lawyer – with the danger of either person thinking the mediator is favouring their ex. To enter into collaborative negotiations everyone has to sign an agreement, promising not to go to court, to behave courteously and co-operatively, and not to hide anything. If talks break down and either party wants to go to court they have to find a new lawyer and start again. Every one of the four people involved is invested in making it work. Back in the workshop I watched a role play of an initial meeting. It began with a wife and husband taking turns to read out their anchor statements. This is a document each person writes to record things like what they hope to achieve, their priorities and their worries. It guides negotiations to get as close as possible to delivering the best outcomes for everyone. The role play showed two people who were very hurt; one reeling from her partner’s affair, the other desperately wanting his children to share his new life. Despite the divide in how their clients saw the situation the lawyers gently pointed out the similarities in their anchor statements. Both wanted to avoid a fight. The husband wanted qɵ͕́ɅѥtݡѡݥѼqٔѡɥݥѠ今tQݥȁɔݡɔqݔٕٔݥѠȁٕ́ЁɔѼхѼѡȁݥѡЁѥ͕Ёȁѥtݡѡ͉ɕ͕́ݥ͠ȁѠѡѼѕѡȁɕéݕ́丁1̈́ѕȁٕͅȁЁѼՍͽхѕ́Ёɽ̸Qɽ䁉ɽ՝ЁЁѡѥ́ѡͥՅѥݥѠѹȁͽѡ͕Օ́ѡȁѥ́ɍѼѕѼѡѡȁͽéЁ٥ܸ5Ёѡх݅́ѡɥЁѡ́ѱ䁝եѡٕͅѥ䁅ͭՕѥ́ɽѥ̸͍ͥQ݅ɑ́ѡѡѥȁͭѡѠѼѡЁɅѥՔѡЁ́ݥѠѡ͡Ёѕɴ%ѡ͔́ѡչЁͽ݅́ѡєݽ䁙ȁѠL݅́ЁݥѠ́մ͕ѡЁ݅́͡ѡɽ՝Ʌɽ́ѡȸ ѡͥѼɥɥѥ͔ѡ́éݕɔѥ݅́ݕѡѡȁͽЁѡѡɽѡɅѥٔ́ѡЁ͕Ʌѥͥ́Ёѡ́٥ͥ́ݽձeЁȁѡ́ЁѼиٕѡՑ́Ѽхɽ͡ɽɽɅѡȁѡݥѠѡɥ́ɕѥ̸͡%ѡ́ᅵЁ݅́ȁѡЁՍݽձ͕ٔѡѡȁͽɕѥ͡ѼѕɥɅє́ѡѥՕѼȁٕѡѥɕ䁙ɽ́ѡˊéѥٔ́́ѼЁ́Qɽ䁵ЁȁѡЁ́ոѡ͔͕ͥ1͇éɸ́ѡɽݥѡ͡ձхѥ͡éٕ() ɅѥٕɅȁ1̈́ ѽɡ(((+p(()ӊé()Q(+p()́܁݅Ѽٽɍͅ䁥Ёٕ́ѕȁɕձ̰́́ѥٕ䁅ٽ́и((0