Re: Winter 2013/14 - Page 54

Ending bloodshed in court An overhaul of how divorce cases are dealt with is being called for by High Court Judge Sir Paul Coleridge. He is urging for more focus to be on innovative alternatives to the “bloodshed, time and costs of court”. Collaborative Law can help. It can make a real difference and gives couples who are separating an opportunity to work together with the support and guidance of their own lawyer. Under the Collaborative Law process each person appoints their own collaboratively trained lawyer and they then all meet together to work things out face to face. Each person has their lawyer by their side throughout and has support and legal advice as the matter progresses. Each person and their respective lawyers sign an agreement beforehand that commits them all to trying to resolve the issues without going to court. The agreement prevents the lawyers from representing the clients in court if the collaborative process breaks down. If that happens the clients have to instruct new lawyers. The idea being that everyone is fully committed to finding the best solutions by agreement, rather than through adversarial court proceedings. The process can enable the separating couples to reach agreement on how the finances will be shared or what arrangements need to be made for any children for example. The meetings are designed to be led by the separating couple and the lawyers are discouraged from being “positional” and instead have to focus on the separating couples’ needs and interests to help them find a solution tailor made to the separating couples’ circumstances. 52 The collaborative process is not driven by a timetable imposed by the court so the process can be built around individual circumstances and priorities. Sometimes only a couple of meetings are needed to conclude matters, in other cases four or five. Once an agreement is reached, the lawyers will put it into effect, and make it legally binding when necessary. After finding myself becoming more frequently frustrated at how an adversarial and litigious approach to dealing with separation was not always suitable for all families I trained to be a Collaborative Lawyer and I’m pleased to be able to offer people who are separating from their partner an alternative way of moving forward with their life. Each family is unique and it is important that couples who are separating have numerous options available to them to deal with the legal consequences of their separation so their, and if they are parents, their children’s needs, can be met. By Gemma Hope “