You are separating from your spouse or partner. You need to sort out finances and maybe other issues. Which of the following scenarios do you prefer?

Scene 1: Court proceedings are issued. At least four months pass while you both fill in lengthy forms about your finances and answer what appear to be irrelevant or intrusive questions asked about your documents. You may have already had to attend Court to discuss disclosure documents.

Finally you attend Court on a day fixed by the Court, to try and reach agreement. You are in one small hot room and your partner is in another. Your lawyers go back and forth between you. Strangers peer through the glass into your room or ask when it will be free. The only refreshments are from a vending machine.

The Judge keeps asking when you will be ready. When you see the Judge he or she then seems to have little time to consider the details of your case and may not have had an opportunity to read the papers. The Judge makes a suggestion about settlement and you feel pressured to sort matters today otherwise you will have to pay for a contested hearing another day. You will have a different Judge next time and so are uncertain what may happen.

Scene 2: You agree not to go to Court as you don’t want a stranger to make decisions about the future of your family. You want to work things out face to face.

You, your partner and your respective solicitors meet at a place, date and time convenient to you all. You sit together and real coffee and biscuits are provided. There is a separate room if you need to see your solicitor alone. You can have as few or as many meetings as you need.

You both set the agenda for the meetings and everything is discussed openly between the four of you. You can agree to bring financial experts to the meeting to help. You can access mediators and counsellors during the process.

Your solicitors run the meeting jointly. The Collaborative Agreement that you all signed disqualifies them from acting for you in court proceedings if the process breaks down. That means they are absolutely committed to helping you find the best solution by agreement rather than conflict. Everyone contributes to reaching an agreement which you can both accept.

You can discuss arrangements for your children in the same meetings rather than having to issue separate court proceedings.

Which do you prefer?

Scene 1 is the traditional route. You don’t have to see the other person which may seem easier at a time of hurt, bitterness and anger. It may seem easier to say “See you in Court” but will the outcome be the best one for you?

Scene 2 is the Collaborative route. Collaborative Law is a relatively new process aimed at giving you a better way to separate or divorce. The best solutions are the ones you work out for yourselves. The arrangements you reach can be exactly tailored to your circumstances. You are in control and not a stranger.

Collaborative Family Law is not easy. It demands that you have a genuine desire to make it work. You must treat each other with respect during the meetings. As with the traditional route, you must still disclose, fully and honestly, information about all assets.

But doing this together means you have the best chance of understanding each other’s true priorities and finding the right solution. If you have children, they will cope better with your separation if they see you can still resolve problems together. It is the civilised way to part.

Most firms in Colchester and surrounding areas with a Family Law Department have at least one solicitor trained in Collaborative Family Practice and so it will be easy for each of you to find someone to talk to about the process. Look on the website for more information.