It is a sad fact of life that one in three marriages in the UK will fail – and many more unmarried couples will separate.
The cost of relationship breakdown is not merely financial, although anyone who has been through the process of divorce will know how costly court battles over assets can be.
The real cost is in the personal and emotional turmoil which so often marks the end of a relationship. A ‘bad’ divorce or separation may leave lasting scars, not just on the couple involved, but also on children and extended family members.
Solicitors who are members of Resolution try to encourage divorcing couples to reach agreement on contested issues. As a result, over 90% of cases are resolved without significant court involvement.
The process may, nevertheless, still be seen as adversarial. Respective solicitors negotiate on behalf of their clients, to reach an agreement which can be approved by the court. The parties themselves may feel removed from decisions made on their behalf.
Imagine, however, a situation where you sit down with your former partner and with your respective solicitors. You may each freely voice your hopes and fears, together reaching an agreement to which you have both actively contributed. You may emerge, ready to get on with the rest of your life without bitterness and unresolved anger, so often features of the traditional divorce process.
It may sound a far-fetched scenario, when you are in the initial stages of relationship breakdown but it is an increasing reality for many couples. The approach is called ‘collaborative family law’ and, for many, is the best way to deal with a painful and emotional experience.
How does it work?
- The parties enter into a formal agreement, that court proceedings will not be used.
- Each party has a solicitor.
- The solicitor which you choose will be a Resolution member, trained in the collaborative process but also be experienced in dealing with family law issues in the traditional way.
- It may be necessary to call in expert help during the process, whether counsellors or specialists in the financial market.
- You each agree to attend a number of meetings, where you will discuss an agenda and work at a pace with which you are both comfortable.
- You commit to give full disclosure and to talk openly about the issues to be resolved.
- The number of meetings which you actually attend may reflect the speed with which matters are resolved.
The collaborative approach sends out a positive signal to children who, research has shown, benefit hugely from knowing that their parents are working out differences together and in a constructive way.
It is certainly not an easy option and may not be cheaper than a well managed traditional divorce but, for couples who use it, there may be genuine resolution of marital breakdown. Many former couples remain on good terms, enabling them to co-parent children without difficulty.
Collaborative family law is not suitable for everyone but it may provide a real alternative to couples who genuinely seek to resolve differences and move forward.