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collaborative law solicitors sheffield

Collaborative law

What is Collaborative Law?

Collaborative law is a relatively new idea in the UK, having been developed in the United States and Canada. It is a new way of dealing with family problems and divorce, aimed at reaching a settlement without going to court. Collaborative law is only suitable if both parties agree to go down this route.

Norrie Waite and Slater have qualified Collaborative Lawyers in our family department who can help you to achieve an amicable settlement.

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Collaborative lawyers and their clients sign a Participation Agreement confirming their commitment to reaching a settlement out of court. This can include resolving issues relating to children, finances, separation or divorce. The lawyers involved also agree to disqualify themselves from court proceedings, should the process break down. This is an essential element as it means that clients and lawyers are focused on trying to facilitate an agreement using the Collaborative Law process. The whole process has been structured to maximise the chance of a successful settlement being reached and current research indicates a success rate of 85%.

Collaborative Law is also helpful in minimising the conflict which can arise between parties in a family dispute situation. The process means you will never be sat in a court room waiting for a Judge to decide your fate - you will retain control of the issues throughout.

Collaborative lawyers have received special training to help the individuals involved to try and see the bigger picture, including the effect a separation or divorce can have on children, and to help them to set realistic and achievable goals for negotiations.

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How does the Collaborative Law process work?

The collaborative process is very different from traditional litigation and even from round table meetings. There is very little correspondence exchanged between solicitors. Instead matters are progressed by way of face to face negotiations with you, your partner and your respective collaborative lawyers, in what is known as four way meetings. Everyone is on first name terms and works together as a team until solutions are found which are acceptable to both clients and their lawyers.

Initially you will meet with your lawyer to discuss how you need to prepare for the process. Your lawyer will then speak to your partners lawyer to make arrangements for the initial "four way" meeting.

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At the first "four way" meeting your lawyers will ensure that you both understand the process which you are entering into and all four of you will sign an agreement committing to the Collaborative Law process. The meeting will be used to set an agenda stating which issues need resolving and what your respective objectives are. You will also agree on a framework for disclosing and sharing financial information if appropriate.

Subsequent meetings will take place to progress the issues towards settlement. Additional expertise, such as financial advisors, may be brought in if required to provide information and assistance which can be invaluable during the negotiations. You will discuss the issues, and with the help of your lawyers, work together to reach a compromise agreement. Meetings continue until a final settlement is arrived at. Usually 4 or 5 meetings are sufficient to sort things out.

The final meeting is where you will both sign a document agreeing to the settlement you have reached. A financial agreement is then filed in court for the Judge to approve in your absence where it will be converted into a binding consent order.

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How much does Collaborative Law cost?

Each of you will have your own specialist Collaborative lawyer and will therefore incur costs at that lawyer's normal rate. The cost will depend on the time spent on the proceedings, so will vary according to how quickly an agreement is reached. One of the benefits of using the Collaborative Law process is that it will remove some of the usual court costs involved with family disputes and may work out being more cost effective than the traditional legal process.

The issue of costs, and who pays what, may be one of the things which is raised during negotiations.

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How long does Collaborative Law take?

One of the benefits of the Collaborative Law process is that it is free from the usual court imposed timescales. The speed of the process is effectively set by the participants, so it can be much quicker than following the traditional legal process.

The timescale will of course depend on how quickly both parties provide information such as financial disclosure, and also their willingness to reach a compromise settlement.

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What happens if we cannot agree?

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If an agreement cannot be achieved then the Collaborative lawyers have to withdraw from the process. Both parties would then need to instruct new solicitors to act for them in the traditional court process. Collaborative lawyers must disqualify themselves from litigation. This is an essential part of the process as it means that they are focused on achieving a settlement.

Documents such as financial disclosure information can still be used in ongoing proceedings.

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Contact us to speak to one of our specialist Collaborative Lawyers for more information.

resolution accredited family solicitors
Our team of family solicitors comprises Resolution Accredited Specialists, Collaboratively trained lawyers and members of the Law Society's Children Panel.

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