Greater choice for families as family legal aid is extended to collaborative law

26 Oct 2009

From October next year separating families who qualify for legal aid will be able to opt for a “collaborative” divorce in a new development welcomed by family lawyers. The proposed change, announced today by Legal Aid Minister Willy Bach following representations from family law association Resolution, will offer greater choice to families going through separation or divorce.

The collaborative family law process has been available to private paying couples for over five years but those eligible for legal aid have not previously been able to use it. Separating couples and their lawyers all sit down together to reach agreement face to face and at the heart of the process is a written agreement that the divorce won’t end up in court.

“We are delighted that the government has seen fit to allow separating families eligible for legal aid to use collaborative law. This will give all families access to the same range of options when faced with divorce and means that more couples will able to avoid the acrimony of a full blown court case - which in turn will help reduce the number of cases taking up expensive court time and will avoid stressful court delays,” said David Emmerson, Chair of Resolution’s legal aid committee.

In collaborative law couples have their own independent legal advisor by their side throughout the process. They control the agenda and the timing and are able to tailor solutions to the best needs of the entire family. The process is particularly helpful for families with children.

Before this development separating couples could choose from either mediation or traditional negotiation under legal aid. Research into the collaborative process commissioned in 2008 showed that some couples would want the option of collaborative law over mediation as it could offer more support in terms of their lawyer being there beside them as they discussed issues.

“Collaborative law allows couples to stay in control of their own futures, instead of leaving decisions to a judge in a courtroom,” said David Emmerson.

Note to editors:

? Resolution is a group of over 5500 family lawyers in England and Wales. Established 25 years ago, it promotes a non-confrontational, constructive approach to resolving family disputes. To find out more, visit

? Collaborative law began in North America and was introduced to England and Wales in 2003 when the first group of 12 lawyers trained. By the end of 2005 around 600 had trained and today there will be over 1,377 trained collaborative lawyers in England and Wales. 473 of these undertake legal aid work.


For more information or to arrange interviews please contact:

Leonora Merry, Resolution, Communications Officer: 020 7407 0827, Mobile: 07971 300 024

David Emmerson, Resolution, Chair of Legal Aid Committee: 0208 514 9000, Mobile: 07976 702597