What is the collaborative process?
Under the collaborative process, each person appoints their own collaboratively trained lawyer and you and your respective lawyers all meet together to work things out face to face. Both of you will have your lawyer by your side throughout the process and so you will have their support and legal advice as you go.
Besides your lawyer, you will have the opportunity to work with an independent financial advisor, a family consultant, a child specialist or an accountant, who will provide you with specialist help regarding financial matters and those concerning children, parenting, communication and emotional support if and when you need it. All these professionals will collectively make up your collaborative team.
You and your team sign an agreement that commits you to trying to resolve the issues without going to court and prevents them from representing you in court if the collaborative process breaks down. This means that everyone is absolutely committed to finding the best solutions by agreement, rather than through court proceedings.
How does the collaborative process work?
You’ve both met with your respective lawyers, discussed the different options and processes available and decided that the collaborative process is for you. What can you expect to happen next?
- You will both meet individually with your separate lawyers to talk about what to expect in the collaborative meetings, which are usually referred to as ‘four way’ meetings. This is because they are meetings between the four of you – you and your partner and your respective lawyers. You and your lawyer will discuss what you both need to do in order to prepare for the first four way meeting.
- Your lawyer and your partner’s lawyer will speak to each other either face to face or over the phone in order to plan for your first meeting.
- If you’ve chosen to include other professionals such as a family consultant or financial adviser in your team, you might also meet with them. The team will speak to each other to plan the most helpful way forward for you and your partner.
The first four way meeting:
- At the first four way meeting the lawyers will make sure that you both understand you are making a commitment to working out an agreement without going to court. You will all sign an agreement to this effect.
- You and your partner will be invited to share your own objectives in choosing this process and you will all plan the agenda for the next meeting. This will depend on your own individual circumstances but might typically include a discussion about how the children are responding to the separation.
- If time permits you may also go on to discuss how financial information will be shared and agree on who will bring what financial information to the next meeting.
- Subsequent meetings will deal with you and your partner’s particular priorities and concerns. You might, for instance, work together with other team members, either within the four way meetings or separately, to resolve specific financial matters, to address issues associated with children or to help you manage the transition. The meetings will enable you to reach agreement on how the finances will be shared or what arrangements need to be made for any children.
The final meeting:
- In the final meeting documents detailing the agreements you have reached will be signed and your lawyers will talk you through anything else that needs to be done in order to implement those agreements. Sometimes a firm timetable for implementation will not be possible, for instance, if the family house needs to be sold.
How long does the collaborative process take?
One of the benefits of the collaborative process is that it’s not driven by a timetable imposed by the court. So to a large extent the process can be built around your family’s individual timetable and priorities, as these meetings follow agendas set by you and your partner.
Sometimes only a couple of meetings are needed, in other cases four or five. Once an agreement is reached, your lawyers will put it into effect, obtaining a court order where needed.
Find out more in our Collaborative Process Leaflet