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Alternative Dispute Resolution: Collaborative Law, Mediation, Early Neutral Evaluation and Negotiation

Generally litigation is emotionally stressful, financially costly and time consuming. Family disputes can be particularly draining.

There is never a “winning” party and the course of and conclusion of relationship breakdown can be painful.

You may not find it easy to have direct discussions with your former partner but there are other, successful approaches to the traditional and often unpalatable contentious route.

The Benefits
The benefit of alternative dispute resolution is not only to you and your former partner. Experts say it is a huge advantage when children are involved. They can be badly affected by anxiety and tension in the family which can become acute in a relationship breakdown situation.

Karina Leapman & Co is able to provide:

1. Collaborative Law
Family lawyers are embracing this more holistic process. There are now nearly 300 collaboratively trained family lawyers in London, with many more across the country.

Collaborative law allows you to take control of the outcome in a safe and supported environment. This is usually preferable to having a decision foisted on you through what can sometimes seem a pragmatic decision by a busy judge with a limited range of options. A final court decision may gloss over specific financial and other issues that concern you, leaving both parties feeling they did not achieve what they wanted.

The collaborative focus is turned from taking positions and posturing into an emphasis on settlement, allowing you and your children to move on in a way that provides a safer future for them.

So how does the collaborative process work?
  1. It starts with everyone signing a participation agreement which sets out their roles
  2. Designed to encourage openness by a series of round-table meetings, attended by both the parties and their legal representatives, these meetings allow all issues, financial and otherwise, to be raised.
  3. The participants are encouraged to think creatively in:
    finding solutions in a safe forum where you can take control of your future
    fashioning a settlement tailor-made to your own personal and family needs
    a non-adversarial environment
  4. The collaborative law process generates a dignified and co-operative attitude to negotiating, in which everyone is involved:
    the separating couple
    their lawyers
    if required, any experts such as a financial advisor
All have a voice and are committed to achieving a settlement that is the best as possible for the family, without the stress and delay of court proceedings.

The agreement reached is drawn up with you by the lawyers within the collaborative process. Then it is sent to court for approval as a settlement reached collaboratively.

Should agreement not be reached - which is rare - the lawyers cannot take part in any litigation that may occur. They have to withdraw from the case but you can continue to use any financial information which you gave to each other.

2. Mediation
Mediation is a method whereby you and your former partner meet with an impartial and independent mediator, who will facilitate you reaching a settlement. The mediator will either see you:
together in a series of meetings to resolve all issues between you or
in a one day commercial style mediation attended by the parties and their respective lawyers

In this process, as with the collaborative process, you both assess those issues with which you need help. In the case of financial issues, you will need to provide full disclosure in order to produce “Open Financial Statements” and arrive at a “Memorandum of Understanding”, indicating that a satisfactory conclusion has been reached.

Unlike collaborative practice where you attend with your respective lawyers for their advice and support, in a mediation the mediator is there to gather and give information but specifically not to advise either party, thereby retaining their neutrality. This neutrality is the hallmark of mediation.

Once there is a Memorandum of Understanding, this can be taken to your respective family lawyers in order to finalise and draw up the agreement. Then it is sent to Court for approval.

3. Early Neutral Evaluation
Occasionally an impasse can be reached in the collaborative approach or mediation.

Early Neutral Evaluation will involve you and your former partner attending before a retired judge or senior barrister for them to assess the relative merits of each client’s proposal and perhaps offer some alternatives for settlement.

Early Neutral Evaluation enables you to ‘test’ your proposals before considering court as a last resort. An Early Neutral Evaluation by an experienced practitioner of the your respective proposals for settlement, based upon what the court might order is often what is required to re-engage everyone in the quest for closure.

4. Negotiation Through Solicitors
Often clients do not want to engage in a formal process but wish to attempt to settle their personal affairs on an informal basis by voluntary negotiation.

This is another tried and tested method which is successful provided the appropriate negotiators are used. In many cases these are the solicitors consulted by you and your former partner. They may use a number of methods to negotiate a settlement, ranging from telephone conversations, correspondence and round table meetings, either with the parties present or in their absence.

Which method works best?
It is recognised that legal solutions, like other solutions, do not come wrapped in a one size fits all package.

We listen to you and our work is client centred.

What this practice aims to do is analyse the problem and decide with you which is the method most likely to succeed in achieving a
positive future for you
continued family life
children that are as well adapted as possible to a changing family situation
workable financial solution for everyone concerned

Links:
North London Collaborative Lawyers
Resolution Collaborative Lawyers

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