Ruth Mitchell

Member Article

North firm launches new service

A NEW service to help divorcing and separating couples reach a fair and lasting resolution without involving court is being offered by a North East law firm.

Andrea Hewitson, a Partner at BHP Law, has qualified as a collaborative lawyer, allowing her clients to reach agreement face to face with their ex-partners but still with their solicitors present.

The collaborative law system began in the USA but is only just becoming known in the UK.

An official launch of the service by qualified lawyers south of the Tyne has just been held in Durham.

Andrea, who is also a specialist resolution lawyer and is on the Law Society panel for family, says it works for couples who remain concerned about each other’s welfare even after splitting.

“The aim is to reach a fair resolution that benefits both partners with minimum conflict. It is especially useful if couples need to maintain contact in the future, for example, where children are involved,” she explained.

Andrea added: “Couples don’t have to be on particularly good terms and communication may be pretty difficult to start with.

“However, collaborative law can help couples who, despite their differences, still want to find the best solution for everybody involved. My client, for instance, may want to ensure they get their fair share but also feel that their ex-partner deserves their share.”

The system works by bringing together each partner with their respective collaborative lawyers to so-called round table ‘four way meetings’.

The negotiations can focus on children, money and assets or both.

Andrea, who works across the region from the Tees Valley to Newcastle, added: “Everyone has to work as a team and conduct all their discussions, including legal advice, openly and honestly. However, the clients are in control and the meetings offer them the chance to air their concerns and any areas of disagreement.

“The common goal is to reach a settlement against a background of mutual respect.”

Other professionals such as financial advisors and accountants can also take part in the meetings.

If the negotiations ultimately break down then each party must find a different legal representative.

Collaborative cases can be resolved more quickly than those dealt with by more traditional means. They may be less costly than proceeding through the court system, but collaborative law is not covered by Legal Aid.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Ruth Mitchell .

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