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Collaboration is the key to damage limitation
Thursday 4th June 2009
It is a sad fact of life that divorce is here to stay. In recent years, statistics have suggested that almost half of UK marriages will end in failure. The relationship breakdown is not merely emotional but also financial, as anyone who has been through the divorce process will just know how costly court battles can be.
However, as Sahida Ahmed, Family Law Specialist at Solicitors Marsden Rawsthorn explains, it is often not divorce itself, but the way in which you divorce takes the heaviest toll. She suggests that a collaborative approach can limit some of the financial and emotional damage that can last a lifetime.
By entering into a collaborative process, the parties are approaching their divorce not only in a non-confrontational manner but it encourages couples to reach decisions together and offer solutions which can then be finalised by way of an agreement. Although the traditional divorces do settle after a battle in the court, or even after lengthy negotiations, those that have been involved in a traditional divorce will most probably agree that the process is still quite confrontational and emotionally draining.
The traditional process of divorce usually involves the client instructing their solicitor who would then, in turn, negotiate matters with the other parties’ representative. After much deliberation between the respective solicitors, they propose a settlement that would ultimately have to be approved by the client. This process, although successful and will provide solutions, can in actual fact leave the parties to feel removed from the decisions that are being taken on their behalf and can sometimes cause much delay in resolving the matter.
Sahida points out, "There could be a lot of issues surrounding the breakdown of a marriage that a client wishes to come to terms with, but doesn’t really have the opportunity to do so. A "matter of fact" process can leave divorcing couples feeling very isolated, so it's very important to some clients in the breakdown of their marriage that their feelings and anxieties are acknowledged before matters are fully settled."
The collaborative process allows the parties to be more in touch and this is likely to promote stability of reaching a resolution to the issues surrounding the breakdown of their marriage without isolating the parties.
The process involves a situation where both parties sit together with their respective solicitors and commit to resolving matters together.� They enter into a participation agreement which sets out the foundation upon which the parties will embrace the negotiations in order to resolve the issues surrounding the marital breakdown. The parties entering into the participation agreement have the benefit of knowing that the other will not proceed to pursue an application through the court whilst they remain involved in the collaborative process.
This clearly removes the fears the parties may have about matters becoming adversarial, which therefore enables them to concentrate on the issues at hand respectively during the collaborative process.
During the collaborative process, both clients will share their hopes, their aspirations, their expectations and even their fears. This process ensures the parties work together to create an agreement which will work for them both, enabling the divorcees to emerge from the process ready to get on with the rest of their lives without the bitterness and unresolved anger that so often accompanies the divorce process.
This process is proving to be very popular and those lawyers who practice the collaborative approach like Sahida, bring all the legal experience that one would expect as well as having taken training in the collaborative process. Collabarative lawyers also often call upon financial advisors, accountants’, parenting consultants or counsellors for expertise in their field.
The parties together set the agenda and the pace at which they wish to address the issues surrounding their marital breakdown. In adhering to the collaborative process the parties promise to provide full disclosure and issues that matter to them openly. The parties have the opportunity to discuss matters in a relaxed manner in a situation where they feel that they are in control.
As Sahida says, one other notable benefit of those divorcing and entering into the collaborative law process is that this provides a "positive signal to their children that their parents are working together to resolve their differences. To enter into the collaborative process, it is important that both parties are committed to being non-confrontational and that they prioritise and balance their need to appropriately deal with the issues at hand."
Committing to entering a collaborative process will genuinely assist the parties to resolve issues like children's arrangements, the division of financial assets and even the manner in which the divorce is going to be commenced, without intensifying the anxieties that most people would normally experience in the traditional approach. Achieving a successful result in a collaborative process provides certainty and security to divorcing couples, but will enable them to remain friends with their former partner, promoting an environment of mutual respect and understanding upon which they can further build an amicable relationship.
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