LEGAL CORNER: Collaborative law: the benefits

When relationships break down, a diversity of problems arise, ranging from financial to children arrangements, even who should

retain the dog.

Rightly, many people are wary of using solicitors. Sometimes, lawyers can serve to polarise and inflame an already difficult situation. Lawyers in this country are part of what can be characterised as an adversarial system.

Whereas in some areas of law this may well reflect the reality of the situation, that there is in fact little in common between the parties apart from one particular set of circumstances, in family law it is never so straightforward.

Often, and always if there are children involved, people need to maintain some level of working relationship post separation. This means the traditional adversarial approach is not always appropriate and indeed can be highly counterproductive.

Mediation is well-known, less so collaborative law. A number of lawyers across the country are now trained in this process which has been up and running for several years.

There is an active group of collaboratively-trained solicitors working in Chichester, of which I am a member. The core of the collaborative approach is an avoidance of entrenched positions, drawn-out correspondence and legal proceedings (apart from once an agreement has been reached).

Unlike mediation, collaborative law involves the presence of both the parties and their respective solicitors at a series of round-table meetings. Usually these take place at one or both firms’ offices.

The meetings are entirely confidential (in jargon ‘without prejudice’) which means that what is said there cannot be referred to in any legal proceedings if the process doesn’t work. In fact, the parties and their lawyers sign an agreement, the effect of which is that should the process fail, the lawyers must withdraw and cannot act on behalf of either client in any related legal proceedings.

This means there is a commitment on the part of the lawyers as well as the parties to ensuring the process is successful.

Generally, a successful collaborative law approach will take three meetings. Other professionals can be brought in to the process and there is an increasing emphasis on other financial professionals becoming trained and involved in the collaborative process.

Like most issues in family law, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. If you would like to know more about collaborative law, please contact Jim Richards at George Ide Solicitors.

Jim Richards,

Family Department

01243 812428


George Ide, LLP

Solicitors of Chichester and Bognor Regis

Telephone 01243 786668