Jane Keir explains the advantages of working collaboratively to resolve family issues after separation and divorce.
When your world has been turned upside down by separation from your spouse or partner, it’s hard to think clearly and the pressure to make decisions can be intense. As the media consistently bombards us all with reports of ‘divorce court battles’, those of us who try to get the word out that there are different ways for families to sort things out have a tough job to get our voices heard.
A collaborative approach to resolving issues on divorce is very different from the traditional court process. The court process requires clear and linear thinking at a time when this is often most difficult. Solicitors and barristers are there to help with decision-making, but it is a fact that when the court process for resolving financial disputes on divorce has been started, a firm timetable is imposed – documents must be prepared, evidence gathered and decisions must be made. Clients have told me that however supported they are, sometimes it feels that when the court gets involved things are out of their control: the court process is setting the pace, rather than the people asking for its help.
If there are no pressing legal issues that require an immediate application to court, I will tend to recommend that people approaching divorce consider collaborative law as an option, and that both people involved choose a collaboratively-trained family lawyer to keep that option open for as long as possible. Even if one or both people feel that there is an urgent need to start resolving issues right away, it’s important to understand that this is more likely to happen in an environment where you remain in control – such as a meeting between the two of you and your chosen, experienced collaborative family lawyers – than by filling in the standard forms and waiting a few months for the court to see you. Your collaborative lawyer will be able ensure that what matters to you most is what gets dealt with first. In many cases, this is the children, who can be talked about alongside financial issues in the collaborative process, rather than having to keep them separate, as the court system requires.
I enjoy my collaborative cases because it always feels to me that I am giving my clients the very best service possible in the context of helping resolve their private, family issues on divorce. Although I am very used to working in court, and in some cases it cannot and should not be avoided, I find collaborative law to bring about better family outcomes and provide a gentler, more positive process in the most difficult of times. Unlike at court, you stay in control, with all the support you need. So if you know of someone who’s dreading their ‘divorce court battle’, perhaps you’ll add your voice to mine and let them know that they still have options – collaborative law is worth a look.