Our Family Law team and collaborative practice

20 December 2021

Following Good Divorce Week 2021, the newly expanded Family Law team at Wilsons reflect on the positive results they have achieved for clients using alternatives to the Court process.
Jennifer Williamson joined the firm this month as a Partner based in the firm’s Salisbury office and is a qualified Collaborative lawyer. Collaborative working is a form of Alternative Dispute Resolution ("ADR") which entails round table meetings, rather than the exchange of letters and emails, and generally avoids attendance at Court. A Collaborative approach can be used in most family law matter types, as long as both people agree. It can significantly reduce the timescale for cases, and with that emotional and financial costs tend to be a lot lower than with a more traditional route.
In a recent case, Jennifer represented a wife who was separating from her husband without divorcing. She needed advice and representation to help her reach agreement with her husband about financial matters, on the basis that they would each want and need to provide a settled home for their two children. We looked at how equity in the family home, pension provision and income could be shared, now and in the future. Tax considerations, the impact of fluctuations in the value of investment portfolios and different risk appetites were all taken into account. Jennifer was instructed in early summer and asked to conclude the matter no later than by the start of the next school term, for certainty for the children. This timescale would have been impossible had correspondence or the Court been replied upon. The flexibility of Collaborative law, however, enabled the work to be done, negotiations completed and basic agreement to be reached within a few  weeks. Jennifer's client moved into her new home in mid-autumn and able to look to the future with clarity.
Jennifer said, “Litigation and a court process is rarely the best way for a relationship to be unravelled or for a couple to individually set off on different future paths. The unique nature of relationships and families, calls for a bespoke approach. At Wilsons we utilise a full suite of methods to create realistic, practical and creative solutions to help clients look to the future with positivity”. 
Graham Coy is a Partner in the firm who works from both the Salisbury and London offices. As well as being a Collaborative lawyer, Graham is an accredited family law mediator, and has trained to be able to see and speak to children directly in what is known as Child Inclusive Mediation. This allows the children to have a voice and what they say can, with their agreement, be fed back to their parents. This helps parents make informed decisions about what is best for their children and provides those children with the re-assurance that they are being heard. Like Collaborative law, Mediation is a type of Alternative Dispute Resolution directly involving the parties rather than an arm's length correspondence approach, or embittered court process. 
Find out more about this process, which can be an incredibly powerful tool, in this Family Mediation Association film here
Graham commented: "All of us involved in the Family Justice System know only too well that Courts and Judges are stretched to breaking point. The Court process is slow and expensive. It should be seen only as the last resort. Collaboration and Mediations are far better suited to achieving realistic solutions for separating couples and their children".
These Alternative Dispute Resolution approaches, and Family Arbitration (often likened to a 'private court') will also be attractive to those seeking to ensure complete privacy and confidentiality of their matters. This issue is increasingly concerning for those in the public eye following the President of the Family Division's confirmation that transparency is a top priority and should be the norm.
The Wilsons family law team is completed by Joanna Blakelock, Senior Associate based in the firm’s London team, who is also a mediator, and Samantha Fletcher who is a member of Resolution and prides herself on delivering high quality, constructive advice which considers the needs of the whole family, in particular the best interests of the children.


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