Collaborative Family Law

What is collaborative family law?

Collaborative family law is a way of dealing with family disputes where instead of having to go through the court, couples work things out face to face with their lawyers. It can be used for a variety of disputes but is mainly called upon in divorce and establishing child care and maintenance. Establishing an open and honest dialogue is the key to the process being a success.

Collaborative family law also takes the uncertainty out of proceedings, as you are not having to rely on the views of a third party; you yourself come up with the final agreements.

The lawyers will be able to advise each party and if during proceedings both lawyers agree on the same thing, it can encourage each party to do the same.

The discussions that take place within the collaborative process are confidential, so if an agreement can’t be made and the family has to go to court, nothing said during the process can be brought up.

How the process works

To start off with, each party will arrange a one-on-one meeting with their lawyer to discuss what they wish to achieve. The next step will be a four way meeting between the spouses and their lawyers. The lawyers will have met before this meeting to establish what the other party’s wishes are and how they relate to their own client.

In the initial meeting, both parties must sign an agreement stating that they wish the dispute to be worked out outside of the court. The next step is for each party to discuss what they wish to get out of the process and to plan subsequent meetings. There may also be time for discussing what financial information will need to be shared.

The next meetings will focus on getting to a result that both parties are happy with. This can include getting help from extra professionals so as to figure out the best way to divide assets and work out what is best for the children.

The final meeting will bring together everything that the parties have discussed, and agreements that have been reached will be signed. The lawyers will inform the parties as to what they will need to do to ensure that the agreements are kept.

How long does it take?

As you do not have to go through the courts, the process can take as long or as short a time as the family needs or wants. On average proceedings usually take under six months to complete.

Advantages of collaborative family law

The advantages of using the collaborative approach are that it allows the family complete control over the proceedings. Children are always put at the forefront when making any decisions, and as the process aims to be amicable, it means that it can allow for a relationship between the parties to continue after it is complete, which again, is better if there are children involved. It is also a lot less stressful than having to go through court proceedings. On top of this, it can be a lot less expensive than going through the courts.

Disadvantages of collaborative family law

Collaborative family law would not be suitable for cases which involve domestic violence or drug use. The lack of court control can also have a negative effect on the time scale as there can be no clear end in discussions. This, however, can be avoided by ensuring a timeline is put in place at the beginning of the process.


Your lawyer will inform you of the likely costs of proceedings. They will normally be paid by the hour, like divorce lawyers. This will vary from case to case. You can also not get help with legal aid if you choose this approach.

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