Collaborative Law Solicitors

Separation and divorce are amongst the most stressful situations you can face given the strong emotions normally involved and how important the outcome can be for your life. That’s why our family law solicitors encourage a collaborative approach to dealing with these challenging issues, helping you to get a fair outcome with as little conflict as possible.

Our team includes several trained collaborative lawyers with experience in supporting a wide range of couples through the end of their relationships in a productive, non-confrontational way. We are accredited by the Law Society for Family Law and are Tier 3 ranked by the Legal 500 for our Family Law expertise, reflecting the high quality of our services.

We work with clients all over the UK from our six offices spread across Bristol and the surrounding area in Bedminster, Bishopston, Clifton, Kingswood, Queen Square and Thornbury.

What is collaborative law?

Collaborative practice offers a more respectful and less stressful approach to dealing with separation and divorce than court proceedings. It can allow you to reach an agreement on a financial settlement and arrangements for children whilst helping you to maintain a positive relationship with your former partner.

A collaborative approach also offers greater flexibility and creativity than a more traditional approach. This can be particularly helpful if you have joint business interests, or you want to come to a more flexible arrangement over childcare.

Taking a collaborative approach to divorce and separation has the added advantage of generally being much faster and less costly than court proceedings. It also means you stay in control of important decisions about your future and your loved ones, rather than leaving things in the hands of a judge.

Where you are concerned about your privacy, collaborative law can be particularly appealing as it allows you to keep the details of your divorce private.

Another major benefit of collaborative law is that the process isn’t driven by a timetable imposed by the court. Sometimes only a couple of meetings are needed, but there’s flexibility to allow for more where required.

Book an appointment with our collaborative lawyers in Bristol

In some areas of family law, we offer a complimentary introductory meeting with a member of our family law team. This complimentary meeting is up to 30 minutes long and gives you the chance to find out more about collaborative law and whether it’s right for you.

If specific advice is required and you’d like to continue past the 30 minutes, please let your solicitor know and you may be able to carry on into a more detailed consultation. This time will be chargeable, but your solicitor will tell you how much it will be.

To speak to our specialist collaborative family law solicitors in Bristol and arrange an initial appointment, contact us on 0117 325 2929, click here to make an immediate start online or complete our simple online enquiry form.

How collaborative law works

Your initial consultation with our collaborative family lawyers

During your initial appointment, we will ask you about the issues you need help with and explain whether we think a collaborative approach is appropriate. We will then talk you through exactly how the process works, so you know what to expect.

We will also cover important information, such as how long the process normally takes and our collaborative law fees. In some cases, we are able to offer a fixed fee structure, with the fee for each collaborative law meeting and any additional work we need to carry out agreed in advance.

You will then have all of the information you need to decide whether you want to go ahead with using collaborative law for your divorce.

Agreeing to use collaborative law

For a collaborative divorce, you must both be in agreement that this is the approach you wish to take and be committed to maintaining honest and open communication throughout.

At the start of the process, you’ll sign an agreement that commits you to trying to resolve your issues without going to court. The agreement will specify that your collaborative law meetings will take place on a ‘without prejudice’ basis. This means that, should you be unable to reach an agreement and either party initiates court proceedings, anything you disclosed or any concessions you made during the collaborative process cannot be used in court.

Your will both need to instruct your own separate lawyers, who must be trained in collaborative law. These lawyers will not be able to represent you should your case later go to court, ensuring that they are fully committed to making the process a success.

Preparing for your first collaborative law meeting

Before the first session with your former partner and their solicitor, we will sit down with you and discuss exactly which issues we will be attempting to sort out. It is important to make sure we have all of the necessary information, such as evidence of your/your children’s living costs and the full extent of your assets.

Where additional specialist expertise is needed, e.g. from a financial adviser or accountant, we can arrange for them to attend one or more of your collaborative law sessions. That way, you will have their insight available to you when discussing the issues you need to resolve, and they will be working with you together to reach an outcome that is in both of your best interests.

At your first collaborative law meeting

Each collaborative law session will be a four-way ‘round the table’ meeting between you, your former partner and your respective collaboratively trained lawyers. You’ll both be invited to share your own objectives and any specific issues you need to overcome, and these objectives will provide the focus for the discussions at all times.

Where the expertise of other professionals, such as financial planning experts, is required, they may sit in on a single session or multiple sessions as needed.

Your collaborative lawyer will help you make sure your viewpoint is clearly presented, while reducing any potential for conflict. They will also advise on any points of law and suggest solutions to any difficult issues, while making sure your interests are protected at all times.

Well-run collaborative law sessions should be amicable and constructive, focused on sorting out the legal and practical issues, rather than getting into the more emotional, personal side of things, although sometimes they need to be aired as well, but in a focused way if possible.

Following each meeting

At the end of each meeting, we will record any decisions you and your former partner have made and agree whether a further session is needed. How many meetings you need will depend on how many issues there are to resolve, how complex they are and how easily you and your former partner can reach agreement.

Should it be decided that any additional evidence is needed, e.g. about specific costs that need to be considered for your settlement, we will advise you on gathering the necessary documentation.

Reaching an agreement through collaborative law

When you have reached agreement on all of the points that needed to be resolved, you and your former partner will both sign a document confirming the agreement you have reached.

This agreement will not be legally binding, but can be made so by obtaining a court order known as a ‘consent order’ as part of any divorce proceedings. We can apply to the relevant court for a consent order on your behalf where required, and you will not normally need to attend court for this.

If you fail to reach an agreement through collaborative law

Should you be unable to reach an agreement through collaborative law, we can advise you on your options, including initiating court proceedings where appropriate, although you may need to instruct alternative lawyers if you want that option, as the collaborative law process will have broken down. Normally it will be better to try again at reaching an agreement which you are both happy with in the collaborative law process.

Collaborative law FAQs

There is no single answer to this as it will entirely depend on the situation. Most agreements can be sorted out in around two to five sessions of collaborative law, but how many sessions you need will be determined by the number of issues you need to resolve and how quickly you can agree solutions.

A typical collaborative law session will last around two hours and it is normal to leave at least a week between sessions to give both parties time to reflect and gather any additional information needed for the next session.

We will be able to provide you with an estimate of the likely costs at our first meeting, although the total cost will depend on a number of things, including the complexity of the issues and the level of agreement. We aim to offer fixed fees in some cases, giving you certainty over the costs involved in dealing with your divorce. We can typically agree a fixed fee for each collaborative law meeting and additional services, such as applying for a consent order to make your agreement legally binding.

Find out more about our fixed fee family law pricing.

Collaborative law can be used effectively for most separations, but it is most commonly used where there are complicated issues around your finances and/or children to deal with. This is because the process gives you the support of your own legally trained representative and other professional experts to help unpick more challenging issues.

If the issues you need to sort out are relatively straightforward, family mediation may be a more appropriate option.

Collaborative law may not be appropriate where the relationship between you and your former partner has become very acrimonious or in cases involving domestic abuse.

Mediation and collaborative law are both non-confrontational alternatives to using court proceedings for your divorce. Both can be highly effective, allowing you to avoid unnecessary conflict while saving you time and legal fees.

Both processes involve you and your former partner meeting to discuss the details of your divorce and agree how to resolve any points of contention. The key difference is that, with collaborative law, each party has their own legal representative on hand during these meetings, while in mediation, it is just you, your former partner and the mediator, who is a neutral third party.

With mediation, the emphasis is therefore on you and your partner to work out for yourselves how you want to resolve any issues. The mediator cannot advise you on how to solve these issues, as their role is to keep the process productive, defuse any potential for conflict and provide guidance on any points of law.

For straightforward divorces, mediation can be a good choice and the legal costs involved are usually lower than for collaborative law. However, where there are more complex issues to sort out, collaborative law may be the better choice.

Find out more about our family mediation services.

Our insights into the benefits of collaborative law for divorce and separation

The following blogs provide more information on why we believe collaborative family law can be such a beneficial approach:

Blog | Considering the welfare of children during separation

Blog | Collaboration is key

Blog | Why staying on civil terms during divorce will benefit your children

Why choose Barcan+Kirby’s collaborative lawyers for your divorce?

As one of the first UK law firms to embrace the idea of collaborative law, we have been using this approach successfully for over 15 years. This experience means that we are very well placed to judge whether collaborative law is likely to work for your situation and that we know all of the potential issues and pitfalls and how to work effectively around them.

With a broad range of expertise across our family law team, we can make sure you have the very best guidance for the particularly difficult issues you need help resolving, including complex financial matters and arrangements for children.

We also work closely with a network of other collaboratively trained lawyers, financial advisers, pension experts and accountants in the Bristol area, so we are confident that we can call upon the best expertise in any area which is likely to be relevant where required.

Our collaborative lawyers include:

Many of our Family Law team are members of Resolution, a network of professionals including lawyers, barristers and financial advisers who are committed to removing conflict from family legal matters.

Members of our team are accredited by Resolution for their expertise in areas including complex financial remedies, cohabitation and children law.

In recognition of our general Family Law expertise, we are:

Book an initial consultation with our collaborative lawyers

In some areas of family law, we offer a complimentary introductory meeting with a member of our collaborative law team, as well as fixed fees on our family law services, so you’ll know exactly how much you’ll pay from the start.

For further information or to speak to a family solicitor in Bristol about the collaborative approach, call us on 0117 325 2929, click here to make an immediate start online or complete our online enquiry form.


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