SPECIAL FEATURE: Local family lawyers lead the way

National Family Dispute Resolution Week
National Family Dispute Resolution Week

National Family Dispute Resolution Week aims to bring to the attention of the public, the alternative way in which marital, civil partnership and cohabitation disputes can be brought to an end amicably and without going to Court.

This week is National Family Dispute Resolution Week, for family lawyers and their professional body Resolution.

Its purpose is to bring to the attention of the public, the alternative way in which marital, civil partnership and cohabitation disputes can be brought to an end amicably and without going to Court.

The practice of Collaborative Law originates from California, where the more sensitive and experienced family lawyers witnessed the destructive impact of the Court managed divorce process on the parties and their families and wanted to offer their clients an alternative.

The approach is no different in England.

West Sussex maybe a long way from California but the local lawyers were amongst the first to recognise that many of their clients were better suited to this alternative process than one dictated by a Judge in Court.

The County’s Courts will preside over thousands of divorces this year.

They will also hear an ever rising number of claims brought between cohabiting couples for whom there is no specific act of law to help them.

For these people the Collaborative process could be of great assistance.

All Collaborative lawyers are specially trained and qualified in Collaborative law.

There are 11 in the West Sussex group, all from independent law firms who assess cases and advise the clients during a free initial advice session. Nigel Winter of Rawlison Butler LLP said “It is the very best way of helping people make that first difficult step over a lawyer’s doorstep and there is absolutely no obligation”.

Parties who are considering the Collaborative process do so because they and their spouse/partner share the same values in wanting an amicable settlement, based on trust.

As Paula Solieri of Edward Hayes LLP emphasised “it also enables them to choose how best their case can be dealt with for the benefit of their family”.

Andrew Delo of Starke & Co., agrees, adding further “….the process more than anything enables separating couples to resolve their issues in a sensible and cost effective manner”.

The lawyers still have the same duty of care to their client. However, all Collaborative settlements take place at round table meetings, with all parties (both lawyers and clients) being on first name terms with each other.

The parties (not the lawyers) set the agenda and dictate the speed at which the process goes.

Furthermore the lawyers undertake at the outset, not to take the matter to Court and therefore have a vested interest in seeing that the process is successful.

Peter Alison of Stevens Drake added “This is essential to help people speak freely, in the knowledge that what we discuss will not be used against them”.

Last year Resolution received confirmation from their lawyer members that over 1,000 cases settled through the Collaborative process. Nigel Smith of Smith Gadd & Co emphasised “…the Collaborative process is truly innovative.

By agreeing to resolve differences outside of Court and without the pressure that entails the participants and their lawyers can work together creatively to bring about a resolution which best suits them and their family”.

Sue Petritz, another local Collaborative lawyer reflects “….how the Collaborative process has enabled many couples to amicably resolve matters relating to finances and children, which would otherwise have gone through the Courts”.

West Sussex Collaborative lawyers are aware that families have to function, even where the parents are no longer together.

Future graduation ceremonies, weddings and christenings all await, long after the lawyers have sent their last letter. The friends and family of those who choose to separate are often grateful when those they care about, utilise this dignified alternative.

For more information on Dispute Resolution Week visit www.collablaw.net