In an effort to limit the rising number of bitter, courtroom divorce cases, the collaborative approach to divorce and family mediation are being promoted by the UK government as effective tools for helping couples reach amicable solutions when their marriage ends.
The collaborative approach to divorce is relatively new, having been developed by family lawyers in the United States during the 1990s. Collaborative divorce is very different from a ‘traditional’ divorce because proceedings take place in face-to-face meetings, rather than in the often fraught, intimidating atmosphere of a court room. Collaborative divorce puts couples in charge rather than letting a judge decide, allowing the couple to reach decisions at their own pace.
The collaborative approach to divorce begins with the couple signing a collaborative agreement. By signing this agreement, the couple agree to use collaborative meetings to reach resolutions – if either side seek resolution in the courts, the collaborative divorce process is terminated with immediate effect.
Face-to-face meetings are designed to provide a calm, amicable forum for amicable discussion on sensitive or contentious issues, such as the care of the children or the division of assets. Collaborative family lawyers know from experience that when couples are allowed adequate time and space to work through their differences, they are far more likely to arrive at long-lasting, effective resolutions that have been designed to benefit the whole family.
Because the collaborative approach to divorce encourages constructive discussion, the process is now widely recognised as being extremely beneficial in shielding children from the worst effects of a marriage breakdown. The emotional and physical needs of children are at the forefront of collaborative meetings and couples are encouraged to listen to and take on board the concerns of their ex-spouse. Collaborative divorce can help couples to reach safe, secure agreements for the care of their children and because these agreements have been arrived at mutually, they are far more likely to be practical and long-lasting.
Family mediation services can either be used alone or alongside the divorce process. Like the collaborative approach to divorce, mediation is now widely recognised as being very effective in helping couples improve the outcomes of their divorce, whilst shielding children from the more destructive aspects of divorce. The UK government is currently changing the law to ensure that all divorcing couples attend a mediation information meeting to see if mediation is suitable for them before the divorce process is allowed to get underway.
Many collaborative family lawyers work in conjunction with other professionals such as financial advisors, divorce coaches and mediators to offer couples additional support and guidance during the divorce process. Whilst collaborative lawyers are present at every collaborative meeting, they are not on hand to give legal advice to their clients, simply to steer discussions to ensure that any agreements that are reached are made within the law.
The collaborative approach to divorce or family mediation are not suitable for all couples and further advice can be found by contacting your local family law firm or family mediation service.