Collaborative Practice is a new way for divorcing or separating couples to work together as a team with trained professionals, to resolve disputes respectfully, without going to court.
Each client has the support, protection and guidance of his or her own lawyer. Together, the lawyers and clients form the collaborative component of Collaborative Practice. The lawyers agree that they are there to help the clients through the collaborative process - they are not there to take the case to court and are prevented from doing so.
The main elements of Collaborative Practice are set out in a contract called a Participation Agreement, which is signed by both the lawyers and clients.
How Collaborative Law works:
- You and your partner will each choose a specialist collaborative family lawyer.
- Your lawyer will discuss with you, during an introductory meeting, whether your case is suitable for this process.
- You and your lawyer will meet your partner and their lawyer to sign a Participation Agreement. This agreement sets out the ground rules for the Collaborative Process and stipulates that if either client commences court proceedings, both lawyers must cease to act and both clients have to find new lawyers to take them through that court process.
- Underpinning the Collaborative Process is an understanding that you and your partner (and your respective lawyers) will act in good faith in all of your dealings with one another and respect the fact that differences may need to be expressed to achieve a fair settlement.
- The majority of the negotiations will take place at what are called "4 way meetings", where you, your partner and both lawyers will meet to discuss all of the issues. Having everyone present ensures that you and your partner retain control of the process and the scope for misunderstandings is reduced. Discussions take place in a non-confrontational manner, which is particularly important if you are parenting children together.
- The meetings are minuted and action points for future meetings are agreed upon. After each "4 way meeting" you will meet with your lawyer to discuss issues that have arisen and further issues that still have to be addressed.
- There is no letter writing to address issues, these are all dealt with face-to-face at the meetings. This is a very effective way of ensuring that any and all areas of the process are discussed openly.
- Once agreement is reached, the lawyers can draw up an agreed document that can then be submitted to the court for approval. You and your partner will not need to attend court throughout this whole process.
- Negotiate a mutually acceptable settlement without court intervention to decide any issues for the clients
- Engage in open communication and information sharing
- Create shared solutions that take into account the highest priorities of both clients, possibly with the involvement of specialist neutrals such as accountants, Family Consultants.