What clients might be suitable for the One Solicitor: One Couple process (also known as Solicitor Neutral or Resolution Together)? I’m delighted to be joined in this blog by Dr Angharad Rudkin, a child psychologist, author and creator of the What...
What is Collaborative Practice?
I am a specially Collaboratively trained solicitor with vast experience in working this way.
It's used for the following:
- Divorce and Separation
- Financial settlements
- Child arrangements
- Pre and post nuptial settlements and relationship agreements
Myself and your partner's lawyer will help you both sort things out; we will never work against each other or try to ‘win’; we won’t be tactical. We will be obliged to and more importantly really want to help you both. We lawyers will share our legal advice openly (known as waiving legal privilege). That way you know what each other’s cases are and can work out a way forward. We are all contractually obliged not to go to court; this is a positive as it binds everyone to making this work.
Mostly it is best if you, as a couple, go to see a family consultant who will help with the emotional fall out of the break up; it usually saves money overall. They will work with you separately and together to improve communication. They often work with you to create Anchor or Aspiration statements which are integral to the collaborative process. The Anchor Statement helps focus you and we lawyers on your priorities.
We will put the children first in all our dealings with each other and you.
There will be a series of meetings and minutes are prepared to reflect what happened and next steps. There will be no nasty emails or letters.
You need to do all the same financial disclosure as in other processes but sometimes it can be more informal (e.g., just a list of documents needed). A financial schedule is agreed and this forms the basis of talks to work out your future finances.
The legal documents will be drafted with we lawyers working together and helping each other to get them right. Often (and it is advised) that you have a signing off meeting - where the documents are explained to both of you at the same time and minor amends made where necessary; when we are all happy we all sign off the documents.
It is likely we will want to call in others to assist from time to time - working with other experts. Their hourly rate is usually much lower and their expertise more relevant. As a lawyer, I advise and help with the law only. (Although I am a good listener.)
If there are pensions, it goes without saying that you are very likely to need a pension expert to work out a fair division of your pensions.
Could it work for you?
Yes: almost all Collab cases are successful with high satisfaction rates. They usually end in a hug (or a virtual hug). It’s not always easy but it’s worth the effort.
No: if you or your ex can’t act in good faith or be trusted to honestly disclose all assets. (Trusted with finances rather than trusted in a relationship.)
Advantages of the Collaborative process
- Emotional wellbeing and the possibility of preserving your future relationship.
- Speed: it can be very quick where necessary. Or if one of you needs to take time to sort out the emotions, it can be slow.
- You are part of everything that happens.
- 2 lawyers will have a huge amount of experience and can really help you to achieve a result.
- I and your ex’s lawyer will work very hard to work with you to create solutions that suit all of you. No one tries to 'win' - we make it so that you both get something that works and feels fair.
- Everything that takes place in the meetings is confidential and private.
Could this work with another non-court process?
- A child Inclusive Mediator: to speak and listen to the children to see how they are and to feedback to the collaborative team
- Early Neutral Evaluation: sometimes we lawyers will disagree on the law as it applies in your case. Rather than spend time arguing about it go to a neutral (very experienced) lawyer who will give a view of what they think a court would do
- Arbitration: in the unlikely event that you can’t agree on everything an arbitrator can be appointed to make a decision on these few issues
How to get the best out of the collaborative process?
- Work with a family consultant to prepare you for the process. Ideally you both need to work with a family consultant to sort out your own emotions and try to start relating to each other again. Working with a family consultant or therapist will save the need for around 2 collaborative meetings.
- If you don’t feel mentally able to deal with a joint meeting then cancel (giving notice where possible) as it might be a wasted session otherwise. Meetings can be re-arranged. Do work with your family consultant, coach or therapist to get you ready for the next one.
- Ask me, ‘Can you work well with the other lawyer?’. If the answer is ‘no’ or ‘not really’ then see the other lawyer can be changed.
- It’ll save lots of money if you ask your legal questions in the meetings; seek legal information and legal advice. Then you will both hear the advice of both lawyers at the same time. Where it differs we may decide to get the help of an early neutral evaluator to get their view.
- Make sure you do all the work set and deliver via Dropbox or similar so that you don’t get charged for lots and lots of emails.
- Although it may feel like an extra expense you cannot do without a debrief after each joint meeting. A debrief will save you costs in the long run. It’s important that you try and reflect on what went well and what didn’t. I will be able to put your mind at rest or will make sure to deal with your anxieties between meetings with the other lawyer or for certain at the next meeting. Alternatively, you may be advised to seek help from your family consultant or other team member.
- Also have a ‘check-in’ meeting or call with me before each session. Although this may seem like an avoidable cost it’s very good use of your money. This will make sure that anything that’s on your mind can be dealt with either before or during the meeting.
- Make sure you read the minutes which are prepared after each meeting and even more importantly before the next one. Read them over and over. It will save time because you won’t be repeating discussions or decisions that have already happened. It’s natural not to remember what happens in the meetings. There’s a lot of unfamiliar things being discussed and you are likely to feel emotional. In relation to the minutes, don’t bother seeking to amend them (it just costs money) but certainly mention at the next meeting anything troublesome. The minutes are just to record the gist of the conversation you all had and to record interim decisions and next steps in the case.
- Try to avoid long gaps between meetings. Sometimes, this can’t be helped because you are waiting for expert reports to be produced e.g., pension actuarial report or there’s been an event which needs to be accounted for e.g., a redundancy. But if you can keep the momentum going it saves on costs.
- Be prepared to be open about the future and your hopes and plans. It wastes time and money if you keep anything to yourself e.g., a plan to cohabit or re-marry. Any plans can be factored in. Try and envisage you future self in a future life - then we can see if that’s possible or something to work towards at the very least.
- Don’t keep any secrets - things you find shocking or surprising can easily be sorted out. Examples might be, that your new partner is pregnant, that you’ve been made redundant or you’ve received a worrying medical diagnosis. Everything can be resolved if it’s known about.