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Collaborative Family Law

When a relationship breaks down, the sudden change to your lifestyle can have a significant impact on your emotions as well as your finances.

The last thing you need during this time is for the process to last longer than it has to, leaving you and potentially your children in a state of uncertainty. However, when it comes to making those crucial decisions that will determine the outcome of your divorce, it’s easy to let a disagreement escalate into a costly court battle. At Crisp & Co, our collaborative family law solicitors understand how challenging separation can be. That’s why we strive each day to help our clients to get through divorce with minimal fuss, allowing you to focus on getting your life back on track. 

If you and your partner have made the decision to terminate your marriage, you may be concerned about your finances and whether or not you will be able to afford the fees involved with court. Fortunately, there are alternatives to the conventional approach to dealing with relationship breakdown; including a collaborative approach to dispute resolution. Collaborative law is increasingly popular amongst separating couples, as it allows both parties to reach an agreement on important matters in a calm environment. This is not only beneficial in speeding up the process, but can also be useful for couples looking to salvage a working relationship for the sake of their children. In fact, due to techniques such as collaborative family law, the number of children affected by divorce has hit a record low. Collaborative family law is not for everyone, but if you and your partner can achieve resolution through tactical negotiation as opposed to court room confrontation, you will save yourself a great deal of time as well as money. 

At Crisp & Co, our collaborative family law solicitors are proud to have supported a vast number of separating couples through the divorce process, using alternative dispute resolution to secure outcomes that were fair for all the family. Protecting your interests is our priority; and you can count on us to provide on-going assistance and strategic advice throughout the entire process. We appreciate that each relationship is unique, which is why we will always take the time to gain an understanding of your individual circumstances and objectives before working with you to achieve a reasonable result. 

So that you can assess whether a Collaborative approach is suitable for you we have set out below some questions you ought to consider:-

What is collaborative family law?  

Collaborative law is a legal process which enables divorcing couples to achieve resolution outside of court. As a form of alternative dispute resolution, it involves both parties appointing a qualified collaborative lawyer to assist in negotiations, allowing a discussion to take place without tensions escalating.

The collaborative law process takes place over several face-to-face meetings in which you will work together with the aid of your solicitors to find a solution in an open and non-confrontational way.

When is collaborative law used?  

When a couple decides to end their marriage or civil partnership, collaborative law can be used to assist both parties in reaching an agreement without involving the courts. In many cases, it can be a proactive approach in protecting your interests and securing an outcome that meets the needs of both parties. With the additional presence of two qualified collaborative family law solicitors, both parties gain the peace of mind that they aren’t being taken advantage of and therefore, compromise becomes possible.

However, collaborative law is not for everyone. Though it can be helpful in driving cooperation and promoting a solution, the circumstances surrounding your break up as well as the ability of both parties to take part in open communication can prevent an agreement from being reached this way. If one party becomes unresponsive and fails to take part in collaborative law, going through several sessions may prove somewhat pointless if it fails to achieve anything. Furthermore, if you and your partner opt for collaborative law but are unsuccessful in achieving resolution this way, your solicitor will then not able to act on your behalf in the future and you will be obliged to find an alternative family lawyer to assist you through the divorce proceedings.

At Crisp & Co, we appreciate the unique nature of each individual and each couple. We recognise that the collaborative law process may not be appropriate if, for example, the relationship was terminated due to an affair or unreasonable behaviour. That’s why our collaborative family law solicitors will always take the time to assess your individual situation in order to determine an approach that’s right for you.

Why should I choose collaborative law?  

Divorce can be a daunting matter, but the stress involved can be significantly reduced by opting for an approach such as collaborative family law. This process is designed to help separating couples to find solutions to the issues that arise as a result of the decision to divorce, such as arrangements for children, the division of assets and the residence of either party.

At Crisp & Co, our collaborative family law solicitors have vast experience assisting separating couples to achieve resolution through this approach. Our aim is to ensure that your interests are protected and the decision you reach meets your specific requirements.

What are the benefits of a collaborative divorce?  

If you and your partner manage to achieve resolution through collaborative law, it will save you a considerable amount of time and money that often comes with issuing court proceedings.

Further to this, the process itself is flexible: you and your partner can take as many sessions as you need to achieve resolution. This can be beneficial, as it allows both parties a chance to truly listen to each other and work constructively towards resolution. Many choose to use collaborative law when children are involved, as it allows both parties to reach an agreement calmly. As a result, there will be less animosity between the couple and they will be able to maintain a relationship for the sake of the child. If you and your partner can achieve a suitable outcome through collaborative law, the courts will tend to follow suit and put through an order that reflects your agreement. However, if an agreement cannot be reached in this way, it will be the decision of the judge as to how your finances are divided as well as child residency. With the help of a specialist collaborative family law solicitor, you can ensure that the vital decisions that need to be made are done so by you and your partner rather than an independent judge. This is the main advantage of collaborative law, as it takes into account the emotions and individual issues of all parties rather than passing a judgement based on the overall situation.

How does collaborative law work?  

Before the collaborative family law process can take place, all four participants must sign what is known as a Participation Agreement. This agreement states that neither party will be able to issue court proceedings during the process. If collaborative law is unsuccessful in resolving matters, both parties will not be able to instruct the same solicitors through court proceedings.

What is the process of collaborative law?  

The primary goal of collaborative law is to find “win-win” solutions that benefit both sides and ensure that both can live comfortably after the divorce has been made official. The collaborative law process is fairly straightforward. The first step will be for both you and your partner to each instruct your own qualified family law solicitor to take part in negotiations. It’s essential that before discussions begin, all documents and information regarding the issues at hand have been disclosed. That way, there can be no mistakes in the process that either party can take advantage of. Both you and your partner must agree to act within the interests of your children if you have any, ensuring that they are insulated from the process so that the divorce itself has minimal impact on their lives. After a participation agreement is signed, all 4 parties (the couple and their respective solicitors) will come together to negotiate a fair outcome. Sessions will be organised in which the objective will be to explore options and encourage agreement, so your solicitors should help guide you through and relieve tension where matters begin to become frustrating. If an agreement is reached through mediation, this will form the basis of the order that the court passes.

How much will it cost if we use collaborative law?  

The legal costs depend on the length of time it takes to reach agreement both in respect of the divorce and the division of the family finances. However, at Crisp & Co we pride ourselves on offering the most competitive rates for the best expertise, often charging only half the rates of similarly qualified solicitors.

We do understand that it is important that you know from the outset what your legal fees are likely to amount to. For this reason, we provide each and every client with a bespoke costs plan and time estimate from the very first appointment with regular updates as needed.

For those clients who have a need to limit costs to a certain sum, we are also offer a ‘pay as you go’ service, whereby work is limited to a certain cost limit set by the client. You will not be charged for your initial appointment at Crisp & Co. We can find out what your needs are and how we can help you and also give you an estimate of your likely overall legal fees, including expenses and VAT. Contact us for more information.

What is the difference between collaborative family law and mediation?  

While both collaborative family law and mediation offer an alternative to court proceedings and share the same goal, the processes they use to achieve this goal are considerably different.

If you and your partner choose to use mediation as a form of dispute resolution, your case must first be assessed in a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting to decide whether or not you are suitable for the process. If mediation is for you, both you and your partner will come together with a trained mediator whose duty it is to guide the conversation to resolution. It is the role of the mediator to act as a neutral professional as opposed to either party’s dedicated solicitor, actively suggesting options for compromise and possible solutions. Collaborative law, on the other hand, involves both parties coming together with their respective solicitors to work together to find win-win solutions.

While mediation can be a great approach for couples who have ended their relationship on amicable terms, it can pose a challenge when one side or the other becomes stubborn and unreasonable, refusing to agree to compromise. It can be difficult for the mediator to proceed with the session in these circumstances, as they must remain completely unbiased and balanced despite this. Collaborative law is designed to deal with this issue, as it allows both parties to receive on-going legal advice and assistance throughout the session. If one party becomes unreasonable, emotional or simply lacks negotiating skill, their legal representative can help move the conversation forward to a solution that suits the needs of both parties.

While both mediation and collaborative law can be proactive for couples looking to separate amicably or outside of court, your unique circumstances will determine which approach is best for you.

Is there anything I should bring to my first appointment with your collaborative family law solicitors?  

It is useful if you provide us with:-

  • Your passport or photo identity driving licence plus another proof of identity with your name and address, such as a recent utility bill.
  • Any letters or documents that have been sent to you by your partner/husband/wife’s solicitors.
  • Any documents that have been sent to you by the Court.

Don’t worry if you cannot provide the information listed above at the first appointment, this can always be given at a later date. However, the more information you can provide us with, the better we will be able to advise you.

  • Henry Crisp
      • Henry Crisp
      • Senior Partner, Solicitor & Collaborative Lawyer
      • 020 3627 9537
      • View profile
  • Carol Christofi
      • 0203 857 9885
      • View profile

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