Within the process of collaborative practice the couple sign a document known as a participation agreement confirming that they will not issue court proceedings. They agree to work together with their two lawyers through a series of four-way meetings to construct an outcome which is best suited to their individual needs and those of their children. Each person will hear first-hand the advice given by the lawyer for the other, ensuring that the process is completely transparent. Both will understand the construction of any agreement and the reasons behind it.
Other professionals can be brought into the process to help or inform the couple including family coaches, IFA’s, accountants, surveyors and tax consultants. In the event that an issue arises over which the two lawyers are unable to agree, Counsel can be jointly instructed to provide an opinion, either in writing or in person, to hopefully break the impasse.
Collaborative agreements have the benefit of being entirely bespoke. They can often cover issues which the court is unable to adjudicate, dealing with matters by way of undertaking rather than court order. Both are equally enforceable.
1. How will I know if the collaborative process is the right way forward for me?
During an initial consultation with a family lawyer all possible resolution of financial and other matters should be considered and discussed, enabling the client with the assistance of their lawyer to select the process best suited to their individual requirements.
2. What happens if I want to deal with matters collaboratively but my partner/spouse does not?
Both parties must instruct collaboratively trained solicitors if they are to embark on the collaborative process. In the event that one of the instructed solicitors is not collaboratively trained there is no reason why the case cannot be handled constructively without the need for the issue of court proceedings, perhaps using the facility of ‘round table’ meetings, but it is not possible for a participation agreement to be signed.
3. How do I know that proper financial disclosure will be provided within the collaborative process?
Both lawyers and their clients will sign a participation agreement confirming that full and clear disclosure will be provided. In the event that disclosure is unclear a third party can be asked to attend a four-way meeting to provide information or clarification, such as a company accountant or pensions advisor.
4. How quickly can the process be concluded?
Four-way meetings can be arranged as regularly as the participants’ schedules will permit and often a series of meetings will be booked in advance. The process is usually completed far more quickly than an application to court.
5. Is the process expensive?
Preparation for, attendance at and subsequent reporting from a four-way meeting is not inexpensive but matters resolved via the collaborative process will usually be significantly less expensive than the costs involved if the matter were to be adjudicated by the court.
6.Who will pay the costs?
Each of the couple will be responsible for the costs incurred by their own lawyer. Within the process they may agree that the costs are paid out of a particular account.
7. If court proceedings cannot be issued, what happens if we want to get divorced alongside resolution of financial matters within the collaborative process?
A divorce petition can be issued at any stage by agreement during the collaborative process.
8. What happens if the process breaks down?
If either party breaches the participation agreement, or simply decides that they would prefer not to deal with matters collaboratively once the process has started there will be a period of 21 days for reflection following which both parties will have to instruct different lawyers from different firms. A solicitor who has dealt with matters collaboratively cannot continue to act for the same client in the event that the process breaks down.