Collaborative Divorce News

Bristol Family Lawyers launch Fixed Fee Collaborative Divorce

posted 7 Mar 2017, 08:52 by Miles Hendy   [ updated 7 Mar 2017, 08:54 ]

Family lawyers from several Bristol law firms have launched an initiative aimed at bringing certainty to the costs of a Collaborative Divorce. The Fixed Fee Collaborative Divorce means that your lawyers are keen to help you reach a collaborative resolution as quickly and efficiently as possible.

What is the collaborative process?

The collaborative process helps separating and divorcing couples resolve their differences and find solutions to their situations. Discussions are held in four way meetings where you share what is most important to you and what you want to achieve, without the threat of court proceedings. In doing so, the aim is to minimise the emotional and financial cost of separation on you and the family.

You are not alone in the process. You both appoint your own collaboratively-trained lawyers. They will be with you throughout and so you will have their support and legal advice all the way through. 

To show your commitment to working in this way, you all sign what is called a Participation Agreement, which focuses the four of you on resolving the issues within the meetings. This will prevent your lawyers from representing you in court if the collaborative process breaks down. However, the aim of this is to ensure that you remain respectful towards each another, negotiate in good faith and provide full and early disclosure of relevant information. This should help you work towards a positive outcome so that, ultimately, there is no need to defer to the court process.

How does the fixed fee package work and what will we do for you?

For the standard fixed fee package, we are offering two four-way meetings within which your lawyers will aim to help you reach an outcome where possible. At the first meeting your lawyers will make sure that you both understand what you are committing to and you will all sign the Participation Agreement. You will both share why you have chosen the collaborative process and what you hope to achieve from it. With your lawyers you will consider the issues, decide on what can be dealt with immediately, agree on what still needs to be determined and prepare a list of action points for tasks to be carried out in advance of the next meeting.

The issues will vary and depend on your own individual circumstances but might typically include a discussion about your children. You may also go on to discuss how financial information will be shared and agree on who will bring what information to the next meeting.

The second meeting will deal with your particular priorities and concerns to help you find long-term solutions. You might consider involving other professionals such as specialists in pensions and financial planning or people trained to assist children in understanding and coping with the changes that your separation will bring to their lives.

After the final meeting, documents detailing the agreements you have reached will be prepared by your lawyers. They will then be discussed with you before they are signed. Your lawyers will talk you through anything else that needs to be done in order to put your agreement into effect.

How long does the collaborative process take?

This is really up to the both of you as the process will move at your pace. If appropriate, then sometimes only two meetings are needed. In other cases, and depending on the complexities and circumstances, more meetings may be necessary.  Your lawyers will be able to give you guidance on this. 
Advantages and Eligibility

Our aim is to ensure that all our fees are open and transparent. Within our fixed fee information, we clearly indicate what is and isn’t included within the standard package. 

What are the advantages of a fixed fee package?

  • It provides certainty about the costs of the case.
  • You are not charged for the time that it takes to do the work, but at the agreed fixed fee for the relevant stage.
  • The lawyer has the same objective as you; getting the case resolved as quickly and as efficiently as possible.
  • The fees are transparent -  you can see instantly what your costs will be.
  • It allows you to control your costs and purchase as much or as little work as you need.

How do I know if I am eligible for the fixed fee package?

  • You are married or in a civil partnership.
  • You and your spouse/civil partner have combined assets, including pension assets of less than £500,000 (net).
  • You have a gross income, from all sources, of less than £40,000 in your household and your spouse/civil partner earns less, from all sources, than £40,000 (gross).
  • You have no assets outside England and Wales.
  • You have no business interests except if you are a sole trader.
If you have income or assets above these levels, we may still be able to offer you  a tailored fixed fee but this will be at the discretion of the lawyers.

Fixed Fee Costs Schedule

Meetings:    (Costs per person*)

  • 2 four way meetings - £2,500 + vat (£3,000)
  • Additional meetings - £1,000 + vat (£1,200)

Paperwork preparation:    (Costs shared)

  • Divorce proceedings - £350 + vat (£420)
  • Resulting Agreements - £750 + vat (£900)

Court fees:    (Costs shared)

  • Divorce issue - £550
  • Consent Order issue - £50
* Payment of fees will be required within 14 days of the initial four way meeting.

What is not Covered?

Initial meeting between solicitor and client.

3rd party costs including but not limited to work carried out by Conveyancers, Financial Neutrals, Couples and Family Therapists, Child Specialists.

Which Lawyers are Participating?

The following family lawyers are all participating in the initiative;

Alison Dukes - AMD Solicitors
Jim Gridley - Barcan + Kirby
Richard Sharp - Sharp Family Law
Alison Whiles - Barcan + Kirby
Elizabeth Bruce - The Family Law Practice
Sharon Giles - Sharp Family Law
Jo Morris - AMD Solicitor
Chris Miller - Barcan + Kirby
John Pratley - Simpson Millar
Anna Wilson - Barcan + Kirby
Julia Smart - Metcalfes
Clare Webb - Sharp Family Law
Hanni Pennelegion - Barcan + Kirby

New Year, New Life: Resolutions for those separating or divorcing

posted 19 Dec 2014, 07:16 by Miles Hendy   [ updated 19 Dec 2014, 07:17 ]

At this time of year our attention is focused on family - gathering together to celebrate, to spend time with loved ones and cherish those moments of peace, serenity and comfort. Unfortunately not all will be able to enjoy the festive period, due to the breakdown of a relationship with their partner or husband or wife.

If you are considering or going through separation, divorce or dissolution then this Christmas may be a particularly hard time of year, when all around you others are seemingly happy enjoying the celebrations. All media advertising portrays the rest of the world joyfully eating, drinking and being merry. At every turn one is reminded of what might have been.

A positive way through this might be to focus on the New Year - traditionally a time for ‘Resolutions’ to improve one’s life over the coming year - and to begin to make plans for an alternative future. My experience over the last 15 years, acting on behalf of clients who are separating or divorcing, has told me that it is so important to consider yourself when you are going through this process and that amidst the stress and anxiety, this is very often forgotten.

If you are considering separation or divorce here are some ideas for a New Year’s Resolution:
  • Consider speaking to a relationship Counsellor, either alone or with your partner, which will help you decide whether the relationship is capable of surviving (See Relate).
  • Consider seeking the help of a Family Therapist, who may assist in resolving wider family issues and therefore reduce the pressure on your relationship with your partner or spouse.
  • Think about changes you can make to improve your own lifestyle, independent of your partner or spouse, so that you are empowered to move forward in the event of a relationship breakdown.
  • If finances allow, consider a holiday either alone or with friends to take a fresh perspective on your relationship, or with your partner to spend some quality time together.
  • Ensure you are looking after your health and wellbeing so that you can face any relationship challenges with a strong spirit in the coming year.

If you are sure your relationship has no future, and you are going through separation or divorce:
  • Ensure you have sought appropriate legal advice on your position. Do not allow things to drift, as you may not be protecting your position financially or personally. Arrange a meeting with a family solicitor who is a member of Resolution to ensure they are focused on the least damaging outcome for your and your family. Be wary of taking advice from ‘friends who have divorced’ as every family circumstance is different. Generalisations can be most unhelpful and sometimes damaging.
  • Consider the different methods of resolving any disputes between you and your partner or spouse. Mediation (See Family Mediation Council) and Collaborative practice (See, are ways in which you can resolve an agreement without attending court.
  • Ensure you are using all of the support you have available. Not only organisations such as Resolution, The Parent Connection, Advice now and Sorting out Separation, but also your own friends and family. Do not carry the stress and unhappiness alone. Those who love you want to help. Let them.
  • Begin to make plans for the future. Try saying ‘Yes’ to all (reasonable!) offers for a period of time to open up new opportunities. A new life is ahead of you which may involve relocating, changing your job, making new connections. Although the process of divorce means uncertainty, there are plans you can make in the midst of this uncertainty, which can make things more bearable for you now. (See Rightmove, Learningdirect, Guardian Careers, Match).
  • Don’t be hard on yourself. Congratulate yourself on having got this far. Agree with yourself that this time next year you will have taken the right choices to have moved your life forward in a positive way.

Wishing you a peaceful and hopeful Christmas and New Year.
Katy Zikking is a specialist family solicitor at Harbour Family Law Solicitors. You can contact her by e-mail at: or by calling 01179 055141 or 01275 390454.

Ten Reasons to Choose Collaborative Practice

posted 12 Feb 2014, 14:42 by Collaborative Divorce News   [ updated 12 Feb 2014, 14:49 ]

Why choose collaborative practice for your divorce? Katy Zikking of Harbour Family Law in Bristol gives her top ten reasons.
  1. Control - You and your spouse, partner or civil partner, remain in control of the process. You are both deciding to resolve your agreement without the assistance of the court. That means you have control over how your finances or children issues are resolved. The court will not be imposing an order upon either one of you. You and your spouse or partner, with the help of your Collaborative lawyers, set the Agenda.
  2. Costs - Collaborative practice means avoiding the extremely stressful and costly experience of court proceedings. If your Collaborative practice is successful then you will undoubtedly have saved your assets from depletion, compared to the very high cost of court proceedings.
  3. Time - You and your spouse or partner set the Agenda. So you will also have  much more control over how long the process will take to resolve. There are no deadlines imposed by anyone, except you both.
  4. Health - Collaborative process takes into account the emotional and physical demands that divorce may place on you. Other Collaborative practitioners, such as Family Therapists can be consulted as part of the process, to help you move forward and to help you deal with the challenges, which divorce can bring.
  5. Preserving Relationships - At the end of a successful Collaborative process, you and your spouse or partner will be able to continue having a respectful relationship. This will enable you, your children and extended family to continue your lives – separate, but not estranged from each other. Apart, but together as parents.
  6. Creative Outcomes - As you and your spouse or partner are reaching an agreement without having a decision imposed upon you by the court, the outcomes can be more creative than may be ordered by the court. For example, you may own a business together and have specific ideas about how the business interests may be dealt with. These can be realised in your Collaborative Agreement. If your case were dealt with in court proceedings, the likely outcomes would be far more restricted.
  7. Less paperwork: more interaction - The Collaborative process involves face-to-face meetings with your spouse or partner and the Collaborative practitioners. This inevitably reduces paperwork, letters going to and from solicitors and certainly goes a long way to avoid misunderstandings, which can sometimes occur through a purely paperwork-based approach.
  8. A more ‘human’ relationship with your Solicitor - Collaborative law takes account of you and your spouse or partner in the context of your particular circumstances – finances, feelings, resentments and ‘baggage’. This means that your Collaborative lawyer will be working with you throughout to ensure those are acknowledged in the process, not ignored and, hopefully, dealt with as compassionately as possible. You or your spouse or partner may wish to meet with a Family Therapist.
  9. The least amount of regret - Divorce, dissolution and separation are often emotionally painful processes, but divorce does not need to permanently damage you or your family. Collaborative offers you and your spouse, partner and extended family the best opportunity for resolving financial and children issues without creating long-lasting hurt.
  10. Complete support from your Collaborative lawyer - Throughout the process, you will work closely with your Collaborative lawyer. She or he will be able to support you, both in meetings between you both and at the four-way meetings. You will not be sent to meetings alone and fearful of making the wrong choices. You may need the expert assistance of a Financial Neutral – A Financial advisor who can assist your and your spouse or partner as part of the process. All the financial and legal information, choices and decisions will be fully explained. You will be supported all the way.

Dispute Resolution Week

posted 27 Nov 2013, 02:14 by Collaborative Divorce News   [ updated 27 Nov 2013, 02:15 ]

This week is the second annual Dispute Resolution Week organised by Resolution. It aims to raise awareness nationally that there are many ways of resolving your divorce in a cooperative manner.

If you want to know more about the benefits of having a more constructive separation and how to go about it, please read our website, watch our videos and contact a professional from this website who can tell you more. Our website brings together all collaboratively trained professionals in the South West and its environs. If we’re not in your area, please visit the Resolution website for a full list of Resolution members.

Top Five Tips for a Silver Divorce

posted 27 Nov 2013, 01:32 by Collaborative Divorce News   [ updated 13 Feb 2014, 01:19 ]

Increasing numbers of over 60s are choosing to divorce. Collaborative Family Lawyer Katy Zikking of QualitySolicitors Burroughs Day in Bristol has the following top five tips for a Silver Divorce:
  1. Consider an amicable approach to the divorce. Research collaborative practice.
  2. Take independent legal advice as soon as you feel ready. Ensure your solicitor is someone you can relate to and feel comfortable with.
  3. Consider family therapy to ensure the wider family emerges unscathed.
  4. Take independent financial advice to ensure your money will work for you as hard as possible throughout retirement.
  5. Look after yourself and your health. Divorce is a stressful process and you will need to invest in your health as well as your finances.
Read Katy’s article in full on the Daily Express website.

Review of the Winchester Collaborative Practitioners Conference

posted 3 Dec 2012, 03:19 by Miles Hendy   [ updated 7 Dec 2012, 04:44 ]

The Collaborative Group successfully held their inaugural collaborative practitioners’ conference on Tuesday 16 October 2012 at The Marquee, Winchester Cathedral.

Under the theme “So where do we go from here?” the conference met its objective of reflecting on the progress made over the last decade and looking to the future of collaborative practice.  The feedback from attendees has been very positive with many feeling fully reinvigorated.

The full agenda included the following presentations:

An opening talk from Rachel Osgood, Chair of The Collaborative Group

Coaching and the Collaborative Process, presented by Karen Morley and Bethen Hartley of Better Life Coaching

Mapping Paths to Family Justice – some preliminary findings, presented by Professors Anne Barlow (University of Exeter)

Get Artisan, presented by Neil Denny - lawyer, trainer, author and expert on collaborative practice and conflict management

A Perfect Storm, presented by James Pirrie - solicitor, collaborative practitioner, arbitrator, and long-standing member of Resolution’s national committee (his A Corridor of Processes spreadsheet can be downloaded here)

Closing words, Mr Justice Baker - High Court Judge (Family Division), liaison judge for the Western Circuit

For copies of the presentations please click the links above where links are available. For further information on Neil Denny’s presentation, please contact him directly at

Collaborative Practitioners’ Conference – “So Where Do We Go From Here?”

posted 7 Sep 2012, 02:32 by Miles Hendy   [ updated 7 Sep 2012, 02:36 ]

The Collaborative Group will have their inaugural collaborative practitioners’ conference on Tuesday 16 October 2012 at The Marquee, Winchester Cathedral.

With collaborative practice in England and Wales fast approaching its 10th birthday, the Group has chosen the theme “So where do we go from here?” to reflect both the progress made over the last decade, and their thoughts as to the future of collaborative practice.  There is an action-packed agenda, and a stellar cast of speakers, all designed to stimulate debate and re-invigorate practitioners as you return to your offices and prepare for the further development of collaborative practice!  The end of the CPD year is also approaching, and the conference will therefore provide many of you with a much-needed opportunity to gain 6 accredited points - and all this for the bargain price of £100.

The event is expected to be popular, but space is limited, and so tickets will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.  A booking form is attached, together with payment instructions, and a programme of speakers.  Please note that due to the limited space available and what they are sure will be high demand, tickets will only be reserved upon payment.

Attendance is not limited to members of Collaborative Family Lawyers so please encourage all your collaborative colleagues to register.

The Collaborative Group looks forward to welcoming as many practitioners as possible to the wonderful City of Winchester.

Please click here to download the agenda and booking form.

Collaborative Practitioners' Conference, Winchester - Save the Date

posted 26 Jul 2012, 23:56 by Collaborative Divorce News   [ updated 27 Jul 2012, 00:20 ]

Collaborative Practitioners across the South and South West of England are this morning encouraged to put a date in their diaries. The Collaborative Group in Southampton, Lymington and Winchester are busy putting the final touches to their Collaborative Practitioners’ Conference to be held in Winchester Cathedral on Tuesday 16th October 2012.

Further news and invitations will follow shortly and in the meantime, be sure to save the date!

How Will Your Children Remember your Divorce?

posted 8 Aug 2011, 04:36 by Collaborative Divorce News   [ updated 8 Aug 2011, 05:15 ]

Suffer the children...

by Sharon Giles, Associate Solicitor at Thrings

All too often children are the silent victims of divorce. Situations arising beyond their control and, often, quite out of the blue expose them to conflict, unhappy atmospheres, change of house, change of school, change of friends, absent parents, replacement parents... The list goes on yet, very seldom, do children’s views and feelings become a part of the process unless the subject of dispute becomes them and how their time is to be shared between their parents

Collaborative process is special here because focus at the very outset can be on your children and best outcomes for them and both of you. The same difficult issues arising from family breakdown will need to be tackled but in an open and supported environment. You are encouraged to bring your most difficult discussions to the collaborative meetings thus saving your children from seeing Mum distraught at the kitchen table as she reads a letter from Dad’s solicitor which tells her she must get a job, claim tax credits and take over the mortgage payments for the house.

Many of my clients who opt for collaborative process have said “My parents had a terrible divorce…I want to protect my children from that”. Such strong motivation binds them to a process where conflict is replaced by constructive negotiation. We all work together to find best possible solutions. There will be compromise. There will be upset. There will also be exploration of options, understanding and focus on the whole family unit, not just one member of it.

If you are a divorcing parent now, just think. How will your children remember their experience of your divorce..?

Conference Review

posted 25 Jul 2011, 03:30 by Collaborative Divorce News   [ updated 25 Jul 2011, 03:35 ]

We’ve all heard of light bulb moments and ah-ha moments, and I’ve been lucky enough to have a fair few of them in my time.  But light bulb days?  Well they’re much more of a rarity - special gems that live on in the memory and continue to drip-feed long after the actual day is done.  The CFL Conference at Ashton Court fits firmly into this category for me. Energy and vision seemed to constellate along a kind of invisible ley line that, almost from the moment of arrival and registration, had an electric buzz in it - a warm spirit of unity, co-operation and hope. 

Patricia Mallon’s opening address picked up and gave voice to this spirit perfectly, focusing on the theme of reconciliation, the healing of old wounds through new collaborations built on dialogue where past differences become a shared source of regret rather than a cause for further entrenched polarising.  Listening to her talk, in the airy grandeur of the main hall at Ashton Court Mansion, gave me much the same feeling as watching Obama’s speech in Westminster Hall - a sense of the defensive posturing we all so easily fall into when we feel threatened being seen for what it is; an artificial boundary between nations, cultures and the old and new that stunts our shared potential rather than enabling it.

The point that this proneness to anxious tribalism is just as strong in us collaborative professionals as in our divorcing clients was implied, if not actually stated, more powerfully at this conference than at any other I’ve attended.  Tricia Peters’ address, after lunch, taking up Patricia Mallon’s earlier themes with remarkable synchronicity, was a deliciously unpretentious call-to-collaborative-arms - an urge to just get on with it, to try things, to work out what works by doing it, and most of all to do this with colleagues who we like the look of who are from outside the comfort zone of our own professional groupings.  Tricia described this as the ‘second paradigm shift’ for lawyers, the first having been from litigation to collaborative law, this one the move from collaborative law to fully integrated, interdisciplinary collaborative practice.  This was powerful indeed from a non-legal keynote speaker; a professional who has fought for her own equal standing at the collaborative gate, so to speak.  Perhaps it’s not surprising in this particular gathering - many of us intrigued by the vision of the second shift even if a little daunted by the detail of its implementation - that her words were so welcome and inspiring.

As one of the seminar leaders, something else I noticed with quiet pleasure was the depth of the questions I was asked at my sessions, and the compassionate interest they showed in the subjective life of our clients.  This reminded me of something I was told by members of the Vancouver collaborative group - that in a well-seasoned and experienced interdisciplinary setting it becomes hard to distinguish the lawyers from the FCs from the IFAs.  Their ways of thinking and talking about clients become increasingly similar as they borrow the best from each other’s ways of working.  The groups I worked with at Ashton Court were clearly on that journey, and clearly enjoying the wider field of awareness they were gaining from it.

As I was leaving the conference I remarked to a colleague that I felt as if I’d been at a wedding - one where I couldn’t entirely let my hair down because I had a responsible role to fulfill!  It was an off-the-cuff remark made without thought.  But later I remembered writing somewhere else that in order to facilitate our clients towards getting the best possible divorce, we as collaborative professionals need to forge the best possible ‘marriages‘ between ourselves.  Maybe the ‘marriage’ idea wasn’t, then, quite so whacky.  In fact, maybe it summed up the very essence of why this day could be as enjoyable as it was while also mattering so much.

by Chris Mills

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