The collaborative process involves commitment from both parties to resolve their dispute through negotiation. Both parties need to sign up to a Participation Agreement.
Each has their own collaborative lawyer and a series of meetings between the parties and their lawyers are then arranged.
Everything is done face to face and although it can be quite raw and emotional for the parties initially, every effort is made to deal with matters sensitively and fairly. In the long run it can avoid delay, stress and hefty legal bills and hopefully, by the end of the process, an agreement can be confirmed and translated into a legally binding agreement.
Such is the commitment to negotiation that both parties have to agree at the outset that if they fail to find a suitable compromise they will not be able to use their collaborative lawyers in any subsequent Court proceedings and, whilst that might seem a tough rule, it is very effective in guaranteeing eventual agreement. The success rate for the collaborative process is 97% and those who have participated often remark on how much time and aggravation they have saved. It is often referred to as separating with dignity and helps not just in resolving difficult issues but ensuring a continuing good relationship between the parties which, of course, are as important where the children are involved.
Collaborative – Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the procedure?
An initial meeting will be held involving the lawyers and the parties known as a “four way meeting”. The purpose is that everyone ensures they are happy and comfortable with the process and to use the time to identify the issues and a constructive way of addressing them. This would include highlighting what disclosure is required and any expert evidence necessary.
The parties are normally required to produce anchor statements at the outset of the process and these are normally done at the first meeting. That highlights what they are hoping to achieve, for example an amicable and fair resolution and assume everyone is happy and comfortable with it at that stage and the parties then sign a Participation Agreement.
Thereafter there is a series of meetings with a view to addressing those issues and finding an agreement everyone is happy with. Sometimes it takes 3 or more meetings but depends on the complexities of the issues and personalities involved.
The other big advantage is avoiding delay. Meetings can be arranged for everyone’s convenience and we also avoid the long delays that often occur in waiting for Court hearings.
This depends on how long or complicated the matter is and is discussed with the parties at the beginning of the process.
3. What if I am not comfortable in sitting in the same room as my partner?
One of the advantages is that you are fully supported and accompanied throughout by your family lawyer.
4. My former partner is unlikely to agree to anything
Whilst that may be the case at the outset, more often those that use the process are greatly relieved that they have chosen that route due to the reduced stress, cost and aggravation.
5. I don’t trust my partner to be honest?
The process requires everyone to act openly and fairly and honestly to disclose all material, facts and assets. That sort of detail is included in the Participation Agreement and if there is any suspicion that someone was hiding things or misbehaving the process is halted.
6. And if the process fails?
In the unlikely event that an agreement is not reached, both parties cannot continue with their collaborative lawyers and have to instruct a new lawyer from another firm to represent them in any subsequent Court proceedings.