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Is an amicable divorce or separation possible?
A new breed of Collaborative Lawyers think so.

This article appeared in the September 2010 edition of Profile magazine.

Divorce can be a bitter and painful experience. The traditional divorce process can often be adversarial; which means that everyone involved, including the children, may come out of the other end emotionally damaged by what has gone on. But it no longer has to be that way.

A pioneering new way of getting divorcedcollaborative lawyers is starting to take hold in England after initially being developed in the USA and Canada. It’s called Collaborative Law, and it is a way to try and resolve issues following the breakdown of a relationship, including finances and children, by adopting a non-confrontational approach.

Collaborative Law is helpful in minimising the conflict which can arise between parties in a family dispute situation. The process means you will never be sat in a court room waiting for a Judge to decide your fate – you will retain control of the issues throughout.

Collaborative law is only suitable if both parties agree to go down this route. Both parties, as well as their specially trained Collaborative lawyers, sign an agreement confirming their commitment to reaching a settlement out of court. The lawyers involved also agree to disqualify themselves from court proceedings, should the process break down. This is an essential element as it means that clients and lawyers are focused on trying to facilitate an agreement using the Collaborative Law process. The whole process has been structured to maximise the chance of a successful settlement being reached and current research indicates a success rate of 85%.

The collaborative process is very different from traditional litigation and even from “round table” meetings. There is very little correspondence exchanged between solicitors. Instead matters are progressed by way of face to face negotiations with both parties and their respective collaborative lawyers, in what is known as “four way meetings.” Everyone is on first name terms and works together as a team until solutions are found which are acceptable to both clients and their lawyers.

At the end both parties sign a document agreeing to the settlement they have reached. A financial agreement is then filed in court for the Judge to approve in their absence where it will be converted into a binding consent order.

Clearly, Collaborative Law is not for everyone. It is only suitable in situations when both spouses have the willingness and ability to keep a level head and try to resolve the matter in a calm and non aggressive way.

Collaborative lawyers have received special training to help the individuals involved to try and see the bigger picture, including the effect a separation or divorce can have on children, and to help them to set realistic and achievable goals for negotiations.

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