What is collaborative law?
The idea behind the process of collaborative law is to avoid running any dispute through the court system, and to try to reach an agreement between the parties through meetings with each other and their lawyers.
Pros and cons
One advantage of collaborative law is that every minute detail in regard to specific arrangements for children can be agreed, rather than be subject to a court order. It is also, in theory, a lot cheaper. If an agreement can be reached without going through the court process, the legal fees will purely be that of the solicitor’s time during the meetings between the parties.
Another potential advantage is the fact that unlike several other forms of alternative dispute resolution there is no strict time-limit on how long the process should take. This allows for the parties to take their time and ensure they have an agreement that is right for both parties; however, it can increase costs if no agreement is subsequently reached.
The disadvantage of collaborative law is the fact that the parties may not reach an agreement at the end of the process. If subsequent court proceedings are issued it is likely that the parties will have to pay substantial legal costs in court on top of those already paid for the collaborative process. Each party is therefore advised to consider how committed to reaching an agreement the other party is.
The process of collaborative law
Generally, upon commencing the collaborative law process each party’s solicitor will sign an agreement that, should the matter subsequently escalate to court proceedings, they will not act for their client. This increases the likelihood that the lawyers will try their best to facilitate an agreement and also ensure that each party is open and does not hide anything at the collaborative meetings.
Once commenced, certain court formalities such as disclosure will be observed and possible expert evidence will be produced if the lawyers consider it necessary. The idea is to ensure that all parties are aware of their legal rights, aware of everything in relation to the matter factually, and that this is done in a cost-effective manner.
By using collaborative law the parties do avoid the stress associated with court visits which can add to the animosity between the parties. It is also felt that as the lawyers control the timetabling of events and meetings the process is a lot quicker than having to go through the courts.
The collaborative law process, by which each party and their solicitor sits around a table and tries to thrash out an agreement, can be a very effective way of settling a dispute. All parties facing issues in regard to children and finances are recommended to at least consider it as an option.
The process of collaborative law is being pushed by the Government in family proceedings in the UK. This has been due to concern about the legal costs of family proceedings which can end up leaving families with very little money after paying bills for thousands of pounds.
When this is added to the fact that the Government’s austerity measures have lead to a cut in funding for legal aid, there would appear to be a significant problem with access to justice, and changes need to be made. Whether collaborative law is the answer to these problems is the source of much debate.
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