The couple and their lawyers will sign a “participation agreement” which commits all of them to act in good faith and to avoid going to court save for the purposes of obtaining a divorce and the court’s approval to the agreements they have reached within the collaborative process. The parties and their lawyers work together. Generally all meetings and telephone calls are “four-way”, meaning that both clients and their lawyers are present. A client must be able to articulate what is important to them and what they want to achieve. There should be empathy and trust between the parties. This process is therefore not always appropriate.
As part of the collaborative law process, financial and other experts can be appointed to advise on specific issues. The collaborative law process can be quicker than the court process. An advantage of this process is that it can go at a speed that suits both parties, although that requires both parties wishing to go at the same speed.
One disadvantage of the collaborative law process is that if the negotiations break down it will be necessary for the clients to instruct new lawyers. To deal with this issue, sometimes couples enter into a “collaborative lite” process, without a formal participation agreement. Another disadvantage of this process is that the reliance on four-way meetings means that it can be more expensive than traditional methods of negotiation.
Hughes Fowler Carruthers has extensive experience in providing clear and proactive guidance on the collaborative law process, including when it is not appropriate, and a number of the solicitors in the firm are qualified collaborative lawyers.