A series of cases over the last few years has highlighted the need for co-operation in divorce proceedings before the courts. Failure to co-operate, particularly in the disclosure of financial information, can ultimately lead to a prison sentence: and as cases such as Parkinson v Daley [http://www.tmfamilylaw.co.uk/2017/04/co-operation-and-contempt-in-divorce/] have demonstrated, this is no idle threat.
With the real threat of a prison sentence underpinning the requirement to provide complete disclosure of financial assets, the case for co-operation is clear. While I would not wish to downplay the distress that divorce brings, there are several, obvious advantages to a ‘cards on the table’ approach, even without the threat of imprisonment. Reaching resolution to the divorce proceedings draws a line under the relationship and allows both parties to move on. Doing so quickly and as cooperatively as possible can have real long term benefits to all involved, especially when there are children to consider. Co-operation also reduces the need for additional court hearings and the escalation of legal costs which is in no one’s interest.
Divorcing couples may not feel like co-operating, particularly in the early stages, when the divorce may be most raw and painful. However, increasing numbers of couples are recognising the benefits in the longer term of putting differences to one side in the interests of achieving a swifter and more flexible settlement. Collaborative law puts co-operation at the heart of the divorce process, and allows couples to work through issues such as financial arrangements and childcare details leading to a more intuitive and realistic setting. While courts are bound by rules as to the content of the orders they can make in divorce proceedings, a key benefit of collaborative law is the opportunity for each couple to draw up a settlement that is uniquely tailored to their circumstances.
Even if collaborative law, which involves the parties and their lawyers discussing the issues face to face, feels like a step too far, other forms of dispute resolution such as mediation are available. As with collaborative law, these other forms of dispute resolution achieve the divorce in a less stressful, and more timely, cost-effective way. Given that the courts will ultimately require co-operation and disclosure of assets and liabilities during a divorce, it makes sense for couples to ‘put their cards on the table’ at an early stage. Collaborative law offers a great opportunity to do this.
I’ve explored the sanctions for non-cooperation with the court process, particularly in the context of financial arrangements, in more detail in my latest blog [http://www.tmfamilylaw.co.uk/2017/04/co-operation-and-contempt-in-divorce].
If you’d like to discuss how dispute resolution in general and collaborative law in particular works in the context of divorce, do get in touch!
Susi Gillespie is a results driven family lawyer with more than 10 years’ experience. Susi worked in a Legal 500 regional firm from qualification until 2016 and has now joined Thomas Mansfield upon them opening their doors to Family Law clients. Susi is a trained Collaborative Lawyer which means that she is able to offer her clients an alternative method of dispute resolution from the traditional adversarial approach. Collaborative Law provides a means of achieving family led solutions in a non- confrontational way by agreement and discussion in several client/lawyer meetings. Susi is also a keen advocate and has Higher Rights of Audience for those cases that (now exceptionally) cannot be kept away from the court arena.