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Ask the legal expert: Collaborative law - Pursuing a clean break

View profile for Sali Jackson-Thomas
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Sali Jackson-Thomas, a Director, Family law Expert and Head of Private Client at JCP Solicitors advises a couple on pursuing an amicable separation.

My husband and I have decided to separate and while we have some issues we are keen to keep things as amicable as possible, for the sake of our teenaged children and for ourselves. How should we proceed?

A separation always brings stresses and flashpoints, but it is sensible to try to keep these to a minimum for the sake of everyone involved.

If you are keen to separate without going through the court process – which can be costly and combative - a Collaborative Law approach might be the best option. Collaborative Law gives separating couples the chance to work together with legal professionals to resolve disagreements in a respectful way, without going to court.

At the start of the process you would both sign a Participation Agreement  - an undertaking that neither spouse will issue legal proceedings. The Collaborative Law process is designed to avoid legal proceedings and, if either of you unilaterally decide to go to court this process would end.

Under Collaborative Law you would each appoint your own lawyer, then work through negotiations over finances and assets, access to children, and other considerations, via four-way meetings.

Clearly, in order for the process to work, you both need to be honest and open and genuinely seeking fair resolution for all. A successful Collaborative Law process is likely to be more cost effective than going though the courts, though with two legal professionals involved at every step, there will still be considerable fees involved.

From my client experience it is clear that the emotional impact can be far less damaging for all concerned when Collaborative Law is used well. In itself, an open acknowledgement from you both that you want everyone to emerge with a fair outcome and that you want your split to have minimal impact upon your children, can help you both focus upon your common goal, even though you separating.

Throughout the process, your legal professionals will encourage you to find creative solutions, which fit your family circumstances. An agreement can typically take six months to reach. Your lawyers will draw this agreement up into a settlement, which will be submitted to the Court for approval, then made into an Order.

For more information, please contact Sali on: 01792 525 413 or via email at Sali.jackson-thomas@jcpsolicitors.co.uk

After practicing as a Family Lawyer for some 25 years, Sali has a wealth of experience in the field. As well as being a member of Collaborative Lawyers in Wales, Sali is a member of the Solicitor's Family Law Association (now Resolution), The Law Society Advanced Family Panel and the Family Mediation Council.

For further advice, please contact our specialist Family Solicitors in:

  • Swansea: 01792 773773
  • Cardiff: 02920 22 5472
  • Carmarthen: 01267 234022
  • Caerphilly: 02920 860628
  • Cowbridge: 01446 771742
  • Haverfordwest: 01437 764723
  • Fishguard: 01348 873671
  • Pontypridd: 01443 408455

The question posed is based upon a hypothetical situation.

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