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Portsmouth County Court is amongst the first divorce courts in England to embrace the thinking of senior family Judge Mr Justice Coleridge and create a fast track system for settlements reached in Collaborative cases.
Collaborative practice puts the needs of the couple and their family first. It enables families to set their own timetable and to discuss the issues that are most important to them in a more constructive and sympathetic environment. By working with a team of specially trained lawyers - and where appropriate other professionals - Collaborative practice empowers divorcing or separating couples to make their own decisions in a non adversarial process.
Mr Justice Coleridge, who famously compared the impact of family breakdown to global warming, announced recently that the Principle Registry would adopt a fast track system to approve agreements the same day when negotiated in the Collaborative process.
The local Portsmouth and South Downs Collaborative Group approached their local court for a similar system and were delighted with the swift and positive response. A spokesperson for the group said: “The local judiciary have been very supportive of our Collaborative group; the agreement of local Judges to have a fast track system in place for Collaborative agreements emphasises the importance of alternative dispute resolution in divorce and family proceedings.”
Family Lawyers from the Portsmouth, Chichester and South Downs region recently attended the launch of a new initiative in the area called Collaborative Family Law. Collaborative Practice involves a firm commitment not to involve the Court on a separation or divorce.
Collaborative Lawyers work with their clients in a series of four-way meetings to find solutions to the family disputes. All discussions are face to face and all involved are expected to work together in an open, honest and frank way. Several family lawyers from the area have specially trained in Collaborative Practice and now offer this unique service to clients.
The launch, held at the offices of MacDonald Oates in Petersfield, saw a number of family lawyers from the area listen with great interest about the benefits of Collaborative Practice. Edward Cooke a Collaborative Family Lawyer at MacDonald Oates said: “It was a great opportunity to bring together so many family lawyers and explain the Collaborative process. I have great hope that we have encouraged other lawyers to train as Collaborative practitioners”.
Claire Webb of Verisona in Waterlooville was one of the first Collaborative Lawyers to train locally and explained the frustration of not having other Collaborative Lawyers to work with: “I was delighted when I discovered other lawyers had trained in collaborative practice and wanted to work with me. It is great that we now have sufficient numbers to have our own local practice group and hope that following our launch other lawyers will want to train.”
The group hopes to hold a number of events locally to raise awareness of collaborative practice. Tina Day from the Fareham office of Coffin Mew LLP - another founding member of the Portsmouth, Chichester and South Downs Group – said: “We all believe that the collaborative approach should be available to everyone who is trying to deal with a relationship breakdown. The traditional way that separation and divorce is approached can often or not cause more damage to families. By using Collaborative Practice we have found that it can provide a much better foundation for the future and less stress on all concerned.”
A group of local family lawyers have joined together to promote and practice Collaborative Family Law. This exciting and dynamic approach to family law has been welcomed by many practitioners as an alternative to the court process. The group known as the Portsmouth, Chichester and South Downs Collaborative Group is made up of experienced family lawyers from several different firms who have all been trained by Resolution in collaborative practice.
Resolution is a group of over 5000 independent family lawyers who are committed to easing the pain and financial cost of family breakdown. Membership of Resolution requires a commitment to encourage solutions rather than confrontation and takes into account the needs of the whole family particularly children.
Collaborative practice requires a firm commitment from the parties and their collaborative lawyers not to approach the court to impose a solution on them. Working as a team all negotiations are conducted face to face and the aim is to agree all matters associated with a divorce or separation. The parties are very much in control of the process setting the timetable and agenda with the assistance of their lawyers. Where necessary third parties such as accountants, IFA’s and life coaches are brought into the process to assist.
To celebrate the formation of the Portsmouth, Chichester and South Downs Collaborative Group a launch event is being hosted at Port Solent where a number of professionals have been invited to attend to hear about the benefits of collaborative practice. The guest speaker will be Duane Plant a collaborative practitioner and trainer from Cambridge where there is a thriving collaborative community.