Collaborative Law was born in 1990 in Minneapolis. Stu Webb had just finished the case from hell and decided there must be a better way. It arrived on these shores in 2003 and since then many couples have used the process to resolve issues (finances and children) arising from relationship breakdown.

The collaborative process positions the parties at the forefront of negotiations. The aim of the process is to empower the parties to come to an agreement amicably and to compromise with each other in the interests of their family.

The process can also successfully be used prior to marriage in relation to the beginning of the preparation of pre-nuptial and pre- civil partnership agreements.

It would not however be suitable where there is mistrust or non-disclosure of financial circumstances by one of the parties. A unique aspect of collaborative law is that both parties and the lawyers sign an agreement at the commencement of the process confirming that the intention of all is to resolve matters in an amicable and conciliatory manner but that if the process breaks down and court proceedings are needed the parties will instruct a new legal team.

Both parties instruct collaboratively trained lawyers. Each lawyer will discuss the process with their client to ensure that it is the most suitable process from the options available.

The Collaborative process proceeds by way of a series of meetings with clients and lawyers. Other professionals such as consultants and financial advisers attend meetings if the clients and their lawyers think they are needed. The meetings are called four-way meetings although on occasions there may be more than four people in attendance. At the final meeting, agreements will be signed which will be converted into consent orders for approval by the court.

For more information, see http://www.resolution.org.uk/collaborative_family_law/
David Josiah-Lake and Margaret Kelly are all collaborative family lawyers.