HM Insights

Collaborative family law - why The Split in real life doesn't need to be a legal war

The BBC's highly anticipated new legal drama, The Split, has already had its fair share of reviews. Some have raved about the performances whilst others have criticised its unrealistic portrayal of divorce law.

The first episode saw the lead character and her opponent, who happens to be her sister, represent clients at a hostile four-way meeting where they battled one another in relation to whether or not the husband is to exercise contact with the parties' son. It also saw the lead character being advised by a senior partner to litigate rather than settle and encouraging her to start a war between a client and their spouse.

In real life, however, does it have to be this way or is there a better way to deal with high conflict cases?

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Court doesn't have to be the answer

It is accepted that there are a small minority of cases that are difficult that do require a third party decision but what about the rest of the cases?

It is important for solicitors to discuss with their client if litigation is really the answer. If the parties have children then there will need to be some sort of relationship between those parties in the future. It is therefore important for the process used when people separate to be, if possible, one which fosters a positive relationship for the future.

There are various alternative dispute resolution methods available to couples when they separate. One of those is the collaborative process. If this route is chosen there is an undertaking to work together for the good of the family if the parties agree not to go to court. There is a promise of full disclosure and honesty and the opportunity to involve financial neutrals and psychotherapists known as family consultants.

In the collaborative process parties are encouraged not to take positions but rather look at their own and their spouse's interests. Their solicitors should help those clients achieve those interests if at all possible.

If a couple have just separated it can be difficult to reach a decision about what the next step is. They need time. In most cases people decide they want to avoid a "war".

Collaborative family law give parties the chance to talk to each other. Instead of sending acrimonious and damaging letters, discussions take place at a series of four-way meetings.

How we can help

At Harper Macleod we have a number of family lawyers who are collaboratively trained. We are here to help you avoid court if that is at all possible in the hope that at the end of the process you are able to positively communicate with your former partner and avoid the ill feeling that the court process can leave you with.

Whilst it goes without saying that collaborative family law is not for everyone, it can allow couples to solve their disputes in a meaningful way which makes breaking up slightly less hard to do.