Collaborative law in family proceedings
In family law, collaborative practice is the legal process allowing the participants to work with collaboratively trained professionals to achieve the best outcome for themselves and their children. They agree at the outset not to take the case to court, and instead they focus on working together to resolve their contentious issues and reach a binding agreement. This method of resolving disputes offers a greater level of control owing to the self-driven nature of the process and often results in fewer costs for the parties involved.
The Collaborative Law Alliance of Bermuda was established in 2006 and continues to attract separating couples who want to achieve an agreement without the hostility and uncertainty that come with the traditional way of litigating through the courts. The CLAB actively encourages family lawyers in Bermuda to undergo collaborative training, as only qualified practitioners should represent clients who engage in the process.
In addition to the attorneys representing each party, the collaborative law process is supported by various independent professionals, which provides for a holistic and inclusive approach to resolving family issues. These experts can be psychologists and counsellors, financial specialists and parenting co-ordinators.
Collectively, the attorneys and other collaborative professionals bring a wealth of experience to the practice of collaborative law in Bermuda, particularly when dealing with highly emotional family disputes, which can distract from focusing on the objectives.
It is noteworthy that in March 2023, divorce proceedings in Bermuda were subject to an overhaul with the introduction of the faultless divorce. It is no longer necessary, or indeed permitted, to issue divorce proceedings based on fault of one of the parties. This less adversarial method of divorcing, combined with collaborative practice can provide for a much more streamlined approach to the family law matters we come across in practice.
Collaborative law is not just for divorcing couples. The process can assist in any kind of family situation whereby a helping hand is needed in negotiations. Some examples include children’s arrangements, prenuptial agreements, separation agreements and property or financial disputes between family members. It is encouraging to see that there are more options available to help families through their tough times without making the process more stressful for them with court applications and delay.
• Nicole Cavanagh is a senior associate specialising in family law at MJM Ltd