Is There A Place For Collaboration

The African proverb “it takes a village to raise a child” has become part of our language today.

As modern life becomes busier and time is more at a premium than ever before, juggling work and family life can be a tricky task. Our “villages” today have become a network of people that get us through the day, from nurseries and after school clubs, to grandparents and family friends, helping busy parents juggle the demands of work and life.

Yet when a relationship breaks down, quite often families can immediately be put at odds, with parents fighting over arrangements for the children, and ex-spouses fighting over money or the family home. Often families can be torn apart, sometimes irreparably severed with significant and long term consequences. It will not be news to most family law professionals that conflict between separating parents can have a significant and detrimental effect on the well being of a child, often felt many years later when children begin to form their own relationships as adults.

In 2014, it became compulsory for anyone bringing an application in the Family Courts in England and Wales to first undertake a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM). The aim is to encourage families to seek alternatives to fighting it out in a Court room. In recent statistics published by the Government, in the first quarter of 2019 the number of family cases started in Courts in England and Wales has increased by 5% on the same period in 2018. New mediation cases started has increased by 10%.

There is a place for mediation in our family justice system. Supported by Government initiatives, and backed by legislation, the benefits of mediation for separating families is well documented. But not everyone is suited to mediation, and yet often the alternative for families seems to be Court. But there is another way!

Collaborative law is not a new concept in the UK, having been launched here in 2003. A process which allows a separating family to seek support and legal advice from qualified and experienced Collaborative lawyers, the ethos behind the process is to leave behind the animosity, the arguing and the aggression, and focus on working collectively to reach a resolution that achieves the best outcome for the family.  Crucially different from mediation, the Collaborative process enables each party to have their own legal representation, working together as a team to achieve a shared and joint outcome.

The process enables not only lawyers to be involved, but a whole host of other experienced and qualified professionals, with the aim of helping a separating family achieve the right outcome for them. It is not uncommon for pension and financial advisors to be included in the Collaborative process, providing information and advice to enable informed financial decisions to be made. Where emotions can cause impasse, counsellors and therapists can also be an invaluable part of the collaborative team. Taken further, parenting coaches, child psychologists and other experts can be brought in to complete the collaborative “village”.

Yet Collaborative Law remains the little known poor relation in the Alternative Dispute Resolution world. There are no big Government initiatives extolling the virtues of the Collaborative process, no legislation requiring separating families to be told about its merits before issuing an application at Court. Left to the individuals themselves to research possible alternatives to the Court route, it is not difficult to find a Collaborative Lawyer amongst more than 1200 trained by Resolution since 2003. However, Collaborative Law itself is not that well known, particularly amongst the general public. Is it time for the MIAM to be replaced by the CLAMIAM (Collaborative Law and Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting)?

Want to have your say? Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Read more stories

Join nearly 3,000 other family practitioners - Check back daily for all the latest news, views, insights and best practice and sign up to our e-newsletter to receive our weekly round up every Thursday morning. 

You’ll receive the latest updates, analysis, and best practice straight to your inbox.