It is no secret that in this time of financial hardship people are less than keen to deal with costly litigation. With the recent cuts to Legal Aid and the government’s constant promotion of alternative methods of “Dispute Resolution’ over court proceedings, the relatively new and growing concept of Collaborative Family Law may well be the way forward.

For those in the dark, Collaborative Law is one form of dispute resolution available in family law disputes. Collaborative Law is essentially a series of ‘four-way meetings’ where the parties instruct collaboratively trained lawyers with a view to allowing the parties to attempt to resolve their dispute without the need for costly and often stressful court proceedings.

Collaborative Law differs from other forms of dispute resolution in the fact that, prior to the commencement of the process, each party (including the lawyers) signs an agreement stating that should the process fail, the parties will have to find new legal representation. This ensures that efforts are made to remain engaged in the process and also provides motivation to overcome the challenges that may arise along the way.

The process of Collaborative Law is designed to begin with the consideration of each party’s concerns and priorities as well as the agreement to work together (with their lawyer’s assistance) towards resolution. As there is less prominence given to ‘entitlement’, the outcomes of Collaborative Law can certainly be much more unique and creative than those that would potentially be achieved at Court or via other methods of dispute resolution.

It must be noted, however, that despite possibly being a very efficient method of resolution, Collaborative Law is not suitable for every case. For it to be successful there needs to be a willingness of both parties to co-operate and achieve a fair outcome. There must be a certain element of trust between the parties as well as a desire to work together.

Collaborative Law becomes a more attractive option when considering the legal costs of certain cases because of its emphasis on working together. In the recent case of Sekhi v Ray it was revealed that the parties had spent a combined total of £850,000 on legal fees in relation to their divorce, the majority dealing of which was spent on a dispute regarding the arrangements for their son. The couple have a net worth of an estimated £4,000,000, consequently meaning that nearly a quarter of the total ‘pot’ from which the settlement is to be agreed has already gone on legal fees. Mr Justice Holman dubbed the on-going litigation and subsequent costs as ‘financial suicide’.

So while Collaborative Law may not be appropriate for all situations, it is a process that emphasises the needs of any children concerned and allows for constructive discussion of the appropriate arrangements for those children.  This in turn can result in a potentially significant saving in legal costs and should therefore be considered as an option.

If you would like any advice in relation to Collaborative Family Law, or indeed any other aspect of family law, please do not hesitate to contact our team of experienced family law solicitors.