I was watching the news this week, and saw Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling having a “debate” about the yes-no vote coming up for Scotland next month.
Although only aired in Scotland, the excerpts that I saw showed two men bickering. I am sure that both are hugely passionate about their position and both wanted to convince the other and anyone else listening that they were right, but their jostling for position seemed to completely lose sight of the wider picture and the main debating points seemed to get lost in the point scoring.
As a divorce lawyer for over 20 years, I have seen my fair share of bickering and point scoring, both by clients and their lawyers. It may feel good, or even just necessary, at the time but can have devastating long term consequences.
It was seeing the damaging consequences which convinced me that there had to be a better way of resolving issues when couples separate. This is why I trained as a collaborative lawyer (and latterly a mediator). I became convinced that keeping couples out of Court, where possible, had to be the way to go. Most people have heard of mediation, although some still wrongly confuse the process with marriage guidance. Fewer people have heard of collaborative law.
Collaborative law is a process based entirely on keeping couples out of Court. Indeed an agreement is signed at the very start where all parties confirm they will not go through court. Each person has their own collaborative lawyer who is there to give legal advice and support throughout the process. The difference with collaborative law is that both lawyers and their clients work together to find solutions for themselves and any children. In contrast to the TV debate this week communication is respectful and common ground is looked for to find solutions.
By Jo Scott who is a practising collaborative lawyer in our team