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What is a four-way meeting?

A ‘four-way’ meeting is where you and your partner sit in a meeting with your Collaborative Lawyers to discuss the issues you wish to resolve.

An agenda is set before the meeting by your Collaborative Lawyers, taking into account the issues you both wish to discuss.

You and your partner have a duty of full and frank disclosure. You both provide all documents within the process.

Correspondence between lawyers is discouraged, thereby keeping costs and acrimony to a minimum.

Discussions focus on the needs and interests of you, your partner and any children.

Meetings are arranged at the start of the process, without you having to wait for court dates. Provided all the participants enter the process in good faith, the process is faster, cheaper and less acrimonious than the court proceedings to reach a resolution.

You and the lawyers can work as part of a group of professionals, including counsellors, mediators and child and financial specialists, to draw on the skills of other professionals to assist you and your partner in the process.

For issues requiring expert opinions (for example an accountant to give tax advice or value a business), the collaborative team will normally jointly instruct independent consultants, following discussions with you at the ‘four-way’ meeting.

Is Collaborative Family Law the best choice for me?

Collaborative Family Law is not for every client, or indeed every lawyer, but it is worth considering if some of the following are important to you:

You want a dignified, non-aggressive resolution of the issues.

You and your partner have children and wish to reach a resolution by agreements with their needs and interests being your priority.

You do not wish to incur the costs and animosity generated by court proceedings.

You would like to keep open, good relations with your partner in the future.

You and your partner have extended family and a number of friends, to whom you would both wish to remain in contact in the future.

You value retaining control over decisions about your financial arrangements or arrangements in relation to the children, but with advice from experts.

You do not wish to ‘hand over’ decision making to either your lawyer or to a court.

Your main aim in the process is not to ‘seek revenge’ on your partner.

You need the assistance of a lawyer to help you negotiate in face-to-face meetings.

What is the difference between Collaborative Law and Mediation?

In mediation, the mediator is prohibited from giving either of you legal advice, and cannot assist you in advocating your position. A mediator is neutral.

The mediator is there to facilitate you and your partner, and has a duty to advise you each to take separate legal advice, either during the process, or after.

Any settlement discussed during mediation is only binding once each of you have had the opportunity of taking separate legal advice and have transferred the agreement into a separate consent order of the court. The mediator cannot prepare the court documents for you, nor finalise the process.

Provided Agreement is reached, your Collaborative Lawyer can act for you in the divorce, and prepare the court papers to obtain the consent order.

Lawyers are rarely present during the mediation sessions, and their advice may be given too late to assist in the process.

In Collaborative Family Law, you each have your own lawyer throughout the process advising you and advocating on your behalf. If you and your partner lack negotiation skills, financial understanding or feel vulnerable when in the sole presence of the other party, Collaborative Family Law could be preferable to mediation.

Mediators may still have a role in the collaborative process, if you and your partner wish to consult a mediator regarding an issue. Collaborative Lawyers can assist you in finding a suitable mediator.

What kind of information and documents do I have to provide in Collaborative Family Law negotiations?

You and your partner sign a participation agreement, which provides full and frank disclosure of all documents and information that relate to the issues.

Disclosure is made at an early stage.

What happens if my partner/spouse does not give full and frank disclosure, or undertake the Collaborative Family Law process in good faith?

Under the terms of the collaborative agreement, the lawyer must withdraw from acting from their client if he/she has withheld or misrepresented information intentionally, or is participating in the process in bad faith. Likewise, it is open to your Collaborative Family Lawyer to advise you to withdraw from the process if they do not consider that your partner (or indeed their lawyer) is keeping to the terms of the agreement.