It was fair to say in 2014 when Gwyneth Paltrow announced she and Chris Martin, her husband, had become “consciously uncoupled” that most of – Family lawyers included – were bemused, to say the least. It’s not a phrase we’d ever heard before, or since.
In a recent interview with Vogue magazine even Gwyneth admitted in hindsight the phrase sounded “a bit full of itself”. A bit? Evidently she was repeating a phrase used by their therapist “who helped us architect our new future”.
The interview goes on: “I was intrigued, less by the phrase, but by the sentiment.
“Was there a world where we could break up and not lose everything?
“Could we be a family, even though we were not a couple?”
She concludes by appreciating that the “public’s surprise gave way quickly to ire and derision.
“A strange combination of mockery and anger that I have never seen.
“I was already pretty tattered from what had been a tough year.
“Frankly, the intensity of the response saw me bury my head in the sand deeper than I ever had in my very public life.”
In reality what she really intended to convey was that whilst both partners no longer wanted to live together, neither did they want to become destructive enemies.
One way of avoiding this, and reinforcing the notion that London is the divorce capital of the world, is that many Family lawyers here, myself included, believe that a collaborative law approach is a good way to proceed. It can avoid Court, avoid long term resentments and allow both partners – especially if they have children, too – to separate, and get on amicably with the rest of their lives.
Collaborative law is a legal process enabling couples who have decided to separate or end their marriage to work with trained solicitors, counsellors and financial professionals in order to avoid going to Court and to achieve a settlement that best meets the specific needs of both parties – and their children – without the underlying threat of litigation.
Both partners attend meetings alongside their own solicitor and the ensuing discussions are designed to achieve a fair settlement. The voluntary process starts when the couple sign a “participation agreement” binding each other to the process and disqualifying their respective solicitors right to represent either one in any future family-related litigation. So everyone is invested in making the process work.
The collaborative process can be used to facilitate a broad range of other family issues, including disputes between parents and the drawing up of pre and post-marital contracts too. As the traditional method of drawing up pre-marital contracts is oppositional, many couples prefer to begin their married life with documents drawn up consensually and mutually.
Collaborative law processes also have the added benefit of usually costing less as the necessary tasks using a collaborative law approach are carried out by specialist professionals without duplication of effort, so saving money.
The process is usually much quicker and more civilised that litigation and has the added benefit of allowing the clients to drive it forward at a pace that suits them. David Hodgson and I are trained collaborative lawyers in the Bishop and Sewell Family team.
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The above is accurate as at 20 August 2020. The information above may be subject to change during these ever-changing times.
The content of this note should not be considered legal advice and each matter should be considered on a case by case basis.