Today my guest blogger is Stephen Anderson, a friend who is a family mediator, collaborative lawyer and non-adversarial solicitor. I asked Stephen to contribute an article because I work with a lot of parents going through divorce and separation in my 6 Week “Separation – Putting Your Children First” Coaching Programme and I recommend that they consider using a Collaborative Lawyer as I believe separation, break up and divorce can be handled with less stress and less aggression if you put your children at the centre of the process.
Collaborative Law – Child-Focused Separation
The Children’s Society estimates that over 100,000 children run away from home every year. Not all of them will be running from a divorce, but neither will many of them be running from happy, stable families. We know that parents going through relationship breakdowns want to do what’s best for their children. Despite these good intentions, there are very many separations which don’t focus on the children. Instead, the breakdown often spins into a vortex of personal antipathy, if not animosity, where the sole focus is on causing some emotional and financial retribution. And the children’s needs are sadly often overlooked. It does not have to be that way.
Some of this is the system’s fault. Society encourages couples to look for an answer to their problems to lawyers and the courts. In reality, the legal system thrives on adversity: if the system encouraged couples to look at the objectives and outcomes they already have in common, instead of concentrating on their differences…well the courts would be largely clear of family breakdown cases. But alternatives are in place, it’s just that they are not very well signposted. Collaborative family law is of them. It is as different to the traditional way of dealing with relationship breakdowns as it could be. While the couple each have a lawyer looking after their interests, the lawyers combine their knowledge and work together to find solutions which provide the best possible outcomes for the whole family.
How does it work? Well, all the negotiations take place face-to-face between the lawyers and the couple; there is none of the traditional solicitors’ correspondence (which tends to be a confrontational, slow and expensive way to listen, discuss and negotiate), The lawyers and the couple sign an agreement which commits them to to resolving their differences out of court. The lawyers carry out an early assessment to consider whether a financial expert and children expert working alongside them might help the couple reach a better outcome. Far from increasing the overall cost and slowing down the process, these experts are a major factor in providing the couple with information and advice which remove the obstacles to settlement, so ensuring that time isn’t wasted. Overall costs are likely to be a small fraction of the cost of the court approach.
The outcomes focus on children and are all the better for it. The agreements are usually then put before the court in a paper exercise for a judge’s approval in full settlement. The information which the couple receive from the team helping them gives them an understanding of what their financial future might be, an emotional outcome very different to the those that follow court hearings, and a better ability to communicate with each other which should enable them to build a new relationship as co-parents. It’s a win-win situation.
Lawyers, financial planners, child experts and counsellors trained to deliver collaborative outcomes can be found all over the UK & Ireland. For more information visit http://www.resolution.org.uk . If you world like to speak to me directly, please call my direct dial number at work 01473 406358 or visit http://about.me/stephenganderson for further information.
“Parenting Apart: How Separated and Divorced Parents Can Raise Happy and Secure Kids ” by my friend Christina McGhee