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A better way to divorce

19 January 2011

Going through a divorce can be stressful but there is a new approach that can help make it a less traumatic process for those involved.

Called the “collaborative approach to divorce”, it started in the USA and became available in the UK about four years ago. It involves a series of round-the-table meetings with the couple and their solicitors, trying to reach a negotiated settlement.

  • The less formal setting often makes it possible to come up with imaginative solutions, tailored to the couple’s specific problems, rather than having the court impose solutions.
  • The approach avoids the need for the traditional ‘nasty letters’ flying between each party’s lawyers that often cause more anger and increase the costs in an adversarial divorce.
  • Each person has the support, protection and guidance of their own lawyer. Together they meet to discuss all the issues that the parties believe need to be resolved.

For their part, the lawyers agree that they are there to help the couple resolve those issues constructively and that they are not there to take the case to court (they are actually prevented from doing so).

This format encourages open communication and information-sharing so as to let people negotiate a settlement they can both live with without going to court. It also means that they can concentrate on the issues that matter most to them, not the ones that the law deems to be important.

You can see how useful this flexible approach would be if, for example a couple run a business together. Creative solutions may enable them to keep the business going without causing undue hardship to themselves or their employees and wider family members.

The couple may wish to involve others in their team. For example, divorce coaches or counsellors to help work through any emotional or communication difficulties; IFAs and accountants to assist with financial information and future planning or mediators or child specialists to help sort out issues about children.

Although relatively new, the collaborative process is becoming a popular option in this country. Many have described it as dignified way forward, and one that provides a much better role model for children than the old adversarial approach. It is particularly helpful for couples who are involved in businesses or work in partnerships together, to separate without adversely impacting on their business and it gives back control for those who would otherwise be in the hands of the court.

If you need clear and pragmatic legal advice, we’re here to help so please get in touch.

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Sharon Giles LLB (Hons)
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