Collaboration isn’t a word that immediately springs to mind in relation to divorce proceedings. But if you and your ex-spouse need to sort out your arrangements through solicitors, and you are prepared to meet face to face, it can be the most direct route to agreement. Using solicitors who have training in the collaborative process will significantly improve the chances of a successful agreement.
It differs from mediation in that it’s a four way meeting: you and your solicitor, your ex-spouse and theirs. All parties must come prepared to discuss and negotiate, with a willingness to try and find a solution. The aim of the meeting is, just like mediation, that you arrive at an agreement prior to the intervention and direction of a judge.
It may require more than one meeting, and it is likely to be difficult as emotions run high and there are complicated or sensitive issues to discuss; but there are many benefits. You are able to talk directly, saving the time and cost of to-ing and fro-ing via your solicitors, and may be able to avoid the more expensive and protracted court process. You and your ex-spouse are the most knowledgeable about your circumstances, so it makes sense for you to be able to discuss issues together, but you are unlikely to be experts in divorce and may only ever do this once – so having your solicitors present also allows you to bring to the meeting their vast experience and training.
Your solicitors are there to help you find a solution that is acceptable and equitable, and to give you both the peace of mind that you have a legal representative looking after your interests and ensuring that all aspects of the agreement are covered and scrutinised by them. You have the benefit of their experience and professional advice on the legal aspects of the discussion to ensure that the resultant agreement, the draft consent order, will be acceptable to a judge. This draft consent order is then presented to the court for the judge to make your agreement legally binding.
Andrew Isaacs is a solicitor trained in collaboration. He can help you through your divorce, in whichever way is best for you.