Frequently Asked Questions

1.  Why should I choose collaborative law?
Because you want a dignified, non-aggressive resolution of issues where you can retain control over decision-making and do not want to hand this over to a lawyer or a Court.
- Because you want to put your family’s needs first and not generate animosity by court litigation. 
2.  How does collaborative law work?
- The two of you and your lawyers, who must be trained in the Collaborative Law process, sign a Participation Agreement as a sign of good faith, agreeing to work together in a respectful, honest and dignified way to reach a settlement.
- An agenda is set before each meeting. To ensure that good faith and openness is maintained, you and your partner will be asked to make full and frank disclosure of all documents and information about your finances.
- Discussions take place about settlement on issues in your presence, with you fully involved in the process.
-See also our main page about collaborative law.
3.  Will I still be able to have legal advice?
- In collaborative law, your collaborative lawyer will act only for you and will give you legal advice, guidance and support throughout the process. Your lawyer will, however, also work with your partner and his/her lawyer at the meetings as part of the team to help achieve a settlement.
- In mediation, you are not obliged to have legal advice, though it is wise to do so. You may need legal advice to finalise any agreement reached.
-In arbitration it is usual for both parties to have legal advice and some matters may need both sides to be represented by a lawyer. It is always wise to have legal advice, but not always compulsory. Please do ask about your specific case.
4.  What are the costs involved?
- By avoiding the Court process, costs will be lower and simply reflect each party’s own advisers' costs and the amount of time needed to reach and implement the agreement.
The costs of any legal process are often a worry to anyone involved in a separation. As a group we aim to keep cots and upset to a minimum by resolving matters without involving the Court. It may be possible to agree a fee for a complete package of help that you need. Please ask for further details.
5.  Is it faster?
- The length of time it takes to obtain resolve matters in court is different in every case, as everyone’s circumstances are different. However, as there is no waiting for Court appointments and meetings can take place in accordance with your and your partner’s own timetable, it can often be quicker.
6.  What is the difference between collaborative law and mediation?
- A mediator facilitates discussions between you and your partner. A mediator cannot give you legal advice. If you want legal advice, you will need to instruct a lawyer either during or after the mediation process. That lawyer drafts any agreement reached in mediation. In collaborative law, your own collaborative lawyer acts for you throughout, advises you, and attends the 4 way meetings with you. You will decide which of your own 2 collaborative lawyers prepares any documents that need to be drawn up.
Do also see the main pages about collaborative law and mediation.
7.  Who else might be involved?
- Depending on your circumstances the expertise and assistance of other professionals such as financial and pension advisers, counselors and life coaches may be brought in. Utilising the skills of these other professionals can often assist in the negotiations and problem solving.
8.  How is the agreement finalised?
- If you wish the agreement reached in the collaborative process or mediation to be binding it will need to be formally documented and approved by the Court. Your lawyers will draft the agreement, which everyone signs and it is then lodged at Court for the Judge’s approval. Judges are encouraged to ‘fast track’ the approval of agreements reached through the collaborative law process.
- In arbitration, the award of the arbitrator is binding, though in some cases is may be necessary for a court order to be approved by a judge. The President of the Family Division has made it very clear that the Court are very unlikely to interfere with an arbitrated award.
9.  What happens if it goes wrong?
- In collaborative law, if the process does not appear to be working, for example if your partner does not give full and frank disclosure of his/her finances, does not act in good faith, or you simply cannot reach an agreement, then the process cannot continue. You will then need to instruct a new lawyer if you wish to proceed to Court. Neither of the collaborative lawyers or their respective firms can continue to act for you but they will still be bound by confidentiality about any negotiations in the collaborative law process. The same procedure may also apply to any other experts you have involved in the collaborative process. However, research has shown that only a relatively small number of cases break down in this way. You are still able to use mediation or arbitration to resolve the dispute, though your collaborative lawyer may not be able to represent you in an arbitration, just as they could not in court.
-In mediation, the process is voluntary so you can stop at any stage and use other means - such as collaborative law or arbitration, or even the Court - to resolve the issue.
-In arbitration, once the matter has been submitted to arbitration, it can generally only come out of arbitration if all the parties involved agree - the arbitrator will decide the issues for you, even if one party no longer wishes to be involved. If you did agree to come out of arbitration, you can still use collaborative law, mediation or the court to resolve the matter.