You and your lawyers sign an agreement that commits you to trying to resolve the issues without going to court. This prevents them from representing you in court if the collaborative process breaks down. That means all of you are absolutely committed to finding the best solutions by agreement, rather than through court proceedings.
But how do you choose which method of DR would suit your family law dispute? Here are a few myths unmasked:
"My lawyer said that the court was best and I didn't need to know about how to sort out children or financial disputes in any other manner". The Law Society's Family Law Protocol tells lawyers that they should encourage the use of non-court methods of resolution and refers to collaborative law, mediation and family law arbitration
"We are amicable despite our relationship breakdown. We can both see the same lawyer can't we, especially for collaborative law?" Afraid not. Relevant professional practice rules mean that, even if the parties are agreed a lawyer cannot advise and/or represent both individuals;
"Mediation is about getting us back together isn't it?" No. Mediation should not be confused with reconciliation. A mediator will meet with you and your partner together and will identify those issues you can’t agree on, helping you to try and reach agreement.
"Any manner in which I sort out finances on relationship breakdown could end up in the media?" No. Media representatives can access details about such court litigation. Moreover, court proceedings are becoming more transparent. However, collaborative law, mediation and arbitration are private methods and away from media and the public gaze.
"A solicitor mediator can give both of us legal advice as well as mediating, can't they?" No. Mediators are neutral and will not take sides, so they cannot give advice to either of you. They will usually recommend that you obtain legal advice alongside the mediation process and will guide you as to when this should happen.
This year Family Dispute Resolution week runs from 24 to 28 November. However, lawyers like us focus on non-court methods of dispute resolution all year round.