When a couple separates, traditionally they will each see their own lawyer for independent legal advice. They will then attempt to resolve matters through their individual lawyers, usually through correspondence (the exchange of letters).
Where that fails, families often find themselves asking the family courts to decide on matters affecting their family and/or finances.
Working collaboratively means working to reach an agreement without the need to go to court. You each have your own lawyer, but matters are dealt with amicably by way of four-way meetings, where both lawyers, and you and your former partner are present. Everyone works together to create a bespoke agreement that works for the family. At the end of the process the lawyers write up the agreement and both of you sign it. If appropriate, the lawyers will obtain a court order to reflect the agreement.
What types of dispute can be resolved this way?
- How much time children should spend with each parent;
- Where children should live;
- How the family finances should be split on separation;
- Whether the family home should be sold where parties are unmarried.
When would this not work?
- Where you don’t want to be in a room with your ex-partner;
- If one or both partners is scared or in fear of the other;
- If either partner chooses not to use this process.
How is the collaborative process different from mediation?
Like mediation, in the collaborative process you can choose to deal with the issues that are important to you and work to resolve them face-to-face and at your own pace.
Unlike mediation, each person is supported in meetings by their own lawyer. Meetings are between four people – you and your former partner, and your two collaborative lawyers – and everyone signs up to use the process to reach a solution.
Also unlike mediation, an agreement will be signed during the process and a court order obtained to make it binding.
If the family needs support, it might be agreed that an independent financial adviser, accountant, family consultant or child specialist might be asked to assist the family. But that will be your decision.
What will I get from the process?
- Meeting dates and times to suit you, rather than waiting months for court dates;
- As many or as few meetings as it takes to reach a resolution;
- It can be more cost-effective, avoiding the costs involved in getting a court-ordered outcome which can easily reach £8,000- £20,000 on each side;
- The arrangement that you reach will be one to fit your family and situation, rather than being imposed upon you;
- At the end of the process, you have experienced successfully working together and maintaining communication with your former partner;
- You will each sign your agreement and the lawyers will apply to convert it into a court order where appropriate, meaning it is binding.
I’m interested! What next?
For this process to be used, you and your former partner each need to work with a collaborative lawyer. A list of collaborative lawyers can be found here:
If you would like to work with Holly Coates, she will meet with you for an initial 30-minute appointment to assess whether the process would work for you. If she doesn’t think it will, she will give you information about alternatives including mediation and the court process. If you do end up going to court instead, you can instruct Holly Coates directly through either the Direct Public Access scheme or via a solicitor.
About Holly Coates
Holly has been working as a family law barrister in Kent since 2009, during which time she has worked with numerous clients to resolve disputes regarding their children and finances through the court process. She qualified as a collaborative lawyer in 2016 and is a member of Resolution, the national body that regulates collaborative practice.
The cost of this service
Initial information meeting 30 minutes £150
Subsequent client-lawyer meetings 1 hour £250
Each four-way meeting £500
Work outside of the above remit will be charged at an hourly rate. Payment is always upfront, so you won’t ever get a bill that you weren’t expecting. Please contact the clerks to discuss a bespoke, fixed-fee package.
Direct access – what is it?
This just means that you will deal directly with Holly Coates, a barrister, rather than through a solicitor. This service is most suitable for clients who are reasonably confident in producing their own paperwork and compiling their own financial information, with Holly to guide you as to what is required. The direct access scheme can therefore make the process more cost-effective.
How to find out more
Please contact the clerks for Holly Coates on 01227 786331 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on this process or to book an appointment.
Collaborative work in the UK is regulated by Resolution, a group of 6,500 professionals who sign up to resolving disputes constructively and through a non-confrontation approach.