Divorce With Lawyers Who Talk To Each Other: The Collaborative Divorce Process
According to the Mirror, lawyers estimate that the average cost of a UK divorce is – in real terms – £70,243 and rising – with the average person losing out on £4,686 of their salary, with an added £5,089 on finding alternative accommodation, £8,926 in legal fees and £51,543 in paying off debt and sharing assets.
Of course, if the divorce starts to get ‘out of hand’ – then legal fees can begin to soar. I spoke recently with a mother who has had to borrow over £80,000 from her family to pay for legal fees to fight court battles against her husband over child custody over the last two years, and they are still no closer to actually getting a divorce. She had originally asked to use mediation – but her husband was not prepared to co-operate. For some people, having a lawyer by their side is important to them – but they CAN have a lawyer by their side, and yet avoid going to court at all.
James Belderbos of Bird Belderbos & Mee Solicitors, practices as a family solicitor and Collaborative Practitioner in Leicestershire and the surrounding areas. He knows something, that a vast majority of the general public are still unaware of: that Collaborative Practice can be a revolutionary way to get an intelligent divorce.
“You may feel that using any form of dispute resolution (alternatives to the traditional route of going to court) – which is essentially talking issues through in a reasonable way and seeking out mutually beneficial long term solutions – is somehow ‘weak’. I believe that by having a solicitor by your side during negotiations, gives you a greater sense of confidence.
It is never ‘weak’ to use more peaceful ways to divorce, and which ultimately saves money, time, stress – and reduces harmful side-effects on the children. Reducing stress enables you to focus on the important things in life and you to perform better. Compromise is not a ‘dirty word’ – it’s the route to staying in control of the decision-making process, instead of handing it over to a judge who knows little about your family.
Yes, you may decide to have less of the property value or savings and give that to your spouse instead – but you’ll only be agreeing to do that if what you are getting in return is more valuable to you. Such as, by way of example the assurance that the money is going towards university fees for your children. Ultimately, you decide.
The benefits go beyond the financial aspects and can facilitate a more harmonious relationship for years to come which is especially important where children are concerned.”
When it comes to the financial aspects of divorce – especially if they are complex – this is where Collaborative Practice can really come into it’s own.
Contrary to popular misconception, lawyers are not highly trained financial experts. But in the Collaborative process, financial planners (who ARE highly trained financial experts) can not only work with clients as a couple or 1-1 prior to settlement negotiations, but as Chartered Financial Planner Charlie Reading explains, they can also collaborate with the family lawyers and be part of the round-table discussions with clients and lawyers.
“I can paint a picture of a family’s future using real data – actual costings based on their everyday needs and forecasting exactly what they will need in the future. Imagine beginning your divorce settlement discussion and being confident that you will have enough money to live off when you are in your old age, by making certain adjustments post-divorce to the way you structure your finances.
Imagine how much more amicable your discussions will be if you don’t have that fear of ‘losing it all’, but can demonstrate to your spouse exactly what you need for the future and why. It actually helps build trust and you’ll become less afraid of the financial implications; instead, you’ll feel excited about the financial independence you will gain by having a proper strategy in place. Obviously, people may not always agree on which strategy is best for them, but that’s when working with skilled Collaborative Practitioners in round-table discussions comes into its own.
If you go to court, the judge isn’t a financial planner. Judges will tend to focus on getting a split that seems fair based on the information they have presented. Often that information is based on figures pulled out of the air – not proper projections. The most empowering thing for me as a Chartered Financial Planner, is to be able to help my clients ‘see into the future’, and help them to be reassured and excited about it.
Financial planning isn’t just about reducing your outgoings now to have enough money to live off later; it’s about intelligent investing and management of that money – a pension pot or sale of a property for example – so that money works hard for you and provides the lifestyle and future financial security that will make you and your now extended family more content. Ultimately, this will mean you’re less likely to need to argue about money.”
Sitting round a table with your respective lawyers – both of them Collaboratively trained (this is important – conventional family law training is completely different from the Collaborative approach) – would seem a sensible option. Which is why it is so strange that even some family lawyers are murky about what Collaborative Practice actually is. In my experience, over 95% of the educated and worldly people I ask the question: “have you heard of Collaborative Law” – respond: “No. I haven’t.”
Singer/performer Madonna and her former husband director Guy Ritchie are considered to be the first celebrity couple who went public about using collaborative law. In 2008, actor/comedian Robin Williams and his wife chose to use the collaborative divorce. Williams stated, “We will strive to be honest, cooperative and respectful as we work in this process to achieve the future well-being of our families. We commit ourselves to the collaborative law process.” More recently, Tiger Woods and Elin Nordegren reportedly used collaborative divorce. Perhaps it’s because this way of divorcing allows privacy (unlike the very public forum of a court-based divorce) – that we just don’t get to know about it. Or perhaps it’s because the media prefers to focus on the angry celebrity divorces instead?
James believes that Collaborative Practice should become much better known, and he would prefer to be using this methodology than having to represent clients in court, because the benefits to the family as a whole, especially the children, are indisputable.
“In a conventional divorce, I would be writing letters to my client’s spouse via their solicitor, instead of sitting opposite them and just sorting everything out alongside our clients. And instead of advising our clients not to talk to each other about details of the proposed settlement but to only communicate via legal means, we instead can suggest they work with a financial expert like Charlie Reading and then we’ll have some sensible strategies to discuss. It just makes so much sense.
“Some detractors say that Collaborative Law is expensive because you have to sit in a room with two lawyers and you may also want to include financial planners and family therapists, and clients don’t want to pay for that. But what they don’t realise is just how expensive getting embroiled in a court battle really is. You can spend over £20,000 on a particular issue and end up back where you started. Court time doesn’t fit around your schedule, the way Collaborative Practitioners can – and most of all, moving forwards it’s better to be able to resolve future family issues through discussion than battling it out in a legal system that can leave emotional as well as financial scars.”
If you want to discover more about the benefits of Collaborative Practice, email James@bbmlegal.co.uk or click here to book your fixed-fee consultation….
For a free financial exploration meeting with Charlie Reading, Call 01572 898060, Email firstname.lastname@example.org or Click Here…