Collaborative Law - Divorce Without Litigation


All divorces involve decisions and choices such as which financial/legal and/or medical professionals to use and how to utilise their help. These decisions can powerfully affect whether a divorce moves forward smoothly or not. Some couples resolve all their divorce issues without any professional assistance whatsoever. More frequently, some couples engage in drawn out courtroom battles, which drains the family's emotional and financial resources, are destructive to relationships and can take considerable time to complete. Most people find that their needs fall between these two extremes.

These decisions can powerfully affect whether a divorce moves forward smoothly or not.

Everyone is familiar with the usual process of obtaining a divorce through the Court system, using traditional litigation techniques such as tactical bargaining. However, a new concept recently introduced in Ireland, which is well established in America and recently established in Britain, is collaborative law; where the couple, with the assistance of their respective collaborative Solicitors, effect a divorce without involving litigation through the Courts.

Under this new dispute resolution model, both parties to the divorce retain separate specifically trained Solicitors whose only task is to help the parties settle the disagreements that they have. All negotiations take place in a number of four-way settlement meetings that are attended by both clients and Solicitors. The number of meetings required differs with each couple, depending on the complexity of the issues involved. The agenda for each meeting is agreed between the clients and Solicitors beforehand. The purpose of the four-way settlement meeting is to reach a settlement, which is negotiated by both clients directly, with legal advice provided by the Solicitors, if needed. Each Solicitor must guide their client towards a reasonable resolution. The legal advice provided by the Solicitor is an integral part of the process while the clients are the negotiators.

With negotiations only taking place in the four-way meetings, both parties insulate their children from their disputes and, should custody be an issue, they avoid the professional custody evaluation process. If a financial, medical or other expert is required, then one expert is retained to advise both spouses, as opposed to the traditional litigation approach of retaining separate experts to advise each client. Thus, the meeting can become a five-way...

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