It may not be easy but I've seen very tricky issues resolved using the methods I advocate...

Jo O'Sullivan

Collaborative Practice

Collaborative Practice

Collaborative divorce

Why Collaborative?

The traditional divorce at its worst:

  • Is very costly
  • Does little or nothing to resolve issues in a fair and harmonious way
  • Allows you little control over the process
  • Encourages you and your ex to be litigants (if you have children this is a poor basis for a relationship as continuing co-parents)

The world is changing

  • There is an increased awareness and acceptability of divorce and separation
  • A growing rejection of the traditional divorce
  • Many realise the need to find a better, less adversarial approach

What’s the difference between a Collaborative divorce and the traditional divorce?

  • You have more control over the process including timing and pacing
  • The Collaborative process is less costly and more effective
  • You and your ex work together, around the table (not by letters or at court) with me and your ex’s lawyer creates a safe, professional environment for a resolution to be achieved.
  • All four of us pledge not to go to court which acts as the driving force for resolution
  • The process is more dignified and respectful
  • The process helps you and your ex communicate better
  • We can consider and take into account all aspects of separation
  • We can call in other experts to help us; Child expers, life coaches, IFA’s, money coaches and experts to help us value assets.

What else can Collaborative Practice be used for?

  • arrangements for the children
  • divorce and financial settlements
  • civil partnership dissolution
  • separation deeds
  • pre and post nuptial agreements
  • pre and post civil partnership agreements
  • cohabitation agreements
  • deeds of trust

How does it work?

Myself and the other lawyers will listen and acknowledge you both. We will manage the process constructively by creating options, negotiating and managing any conflict. We will both give legal advice as part of the process, so it’s in context, and it’s constructive. There is rarely shouting but sometimes there can be silence. The silence is good because it helps all of us process what we’ve just heard and to move forward. We meet together in 4 way meetings (round table meetings) to an agreed agenda. Everything is openly disclosed in good faith and discussed. Myself and the other lawyer may meet/telephone each other to try to move things forward positively or to narrow issues; often it is useful for us to debrief each other and to help us prepare for the next 4 way. I will debrief you after each 2 and 4 way meeting. Either I or the other lawyer will write the minutes of each meeting which are then agreed. It is common for all of us to agree homework that we will each complete ahead of the next meeting.

The 4 way meetings

Some of my clients worry about seeing their ex. Such feelings are normal and to be expected after the break- up of a relationship. It’s not easy but rest assured the lawyers and the process itself will hold you. We can discuss short term concerns and reach agreement around those as well as gearing up for eventual resolution of all issues.

How long does it take

Every case is different. I have reached agreement within a 2 hour meeting. Another case has taken a year from start to finish. Both timescales suited the couples involved. On average the process takes around 5 – 6 months but the legal processes can take slightly longer. This is much quicker than the traditional divorce.

Will Collaborative Practice be right for me?

To determine whether Collaborative Practice is right for you, ask yourself whether these values are important to you:

  • I want to maintain a tone of respect, even when we disagree.
  • I want to prioritise the needs of our children.
  • My needs and those of my ex require equal consideration, and I will listen objectively.
  • I believe that working creatively and co-operatively solves issues.
  • It is important to reach beyond today's frustration and pain to plan for the future.
  • I can behave ethically toward my ex.
  • I choose to maintain control of the divorce/dissolution process with my ex, and not relegate it to the courts.

If you can say "yes" to these basic principles, then Collaborative Practice may be for you.

What is the difference between Collaborative Practice and Mediation?

  • In Collaborative Practice, you and your ex are represented by your lawyers throughout the entire process. The lawyers work with you both and one another to assure a balanced process that's positive and productive. The lawyers also draft the settlement agreement (Consent order or Separation Deed).
    As an impartial third party, a mediator facilitates negotiations between the parties but cannot give either legal advice nor represents either of you.
  • In Mediation, parties can each instruct separate lawyers who can be present during a mediation session or be consulted between the sessions. The mediator prepares a draft of the settlement terms (a Memorandum of Understanding) for review and editing by both you and your lawyers. If mediation doesn't result in a settlement, the parties can instruct their chosen lawyer to represent them in Court.

In the Collaborative Participation Agreement everyone, including the lawyers, agree not to go to court . This prevents me from ever representing you in Court if the collaborative process ends without reaching an agreement. back to top

How do I find a Collaboratively trained solicitor to help my ex?

I helped set up the local pod of solicitors who practice Collaboratively, this is known as Brightpod.

If you feel that Collaborative practice is the process to use then point your ex partner to this website (if s/he lives or works in the area of Brighton and Hove) to choose a lawyer of their own. Otherwise, a list of Collaboratively trained lawyers nationwide is available at  

I was a member of Q'Pod, which is a practice group (POD) made up of fellow lesbian and gay lawyers from across England; this has now been disbanded. 

I helped to set up Sussex Family Solutions (SFS) which is an integrative approach to helping separating families.  SFS is made up of Family Consultants, financial and pension experts.  Family Consultants work to help all of us to work together constructively by working with us on the emotions that can sometimes get in the way.  See the cartoon below which I hope helps to explain this novel way of working. 

Please call me on 07780 676 212  to discuss Collaborative Practice and whether it would suit you. Alternatively email me on