So who should decide who gets the house, what should happen to the business, where the children should live, and how your personal possessions should be divided in the event of family breakdown?

Asking a Court to thrash out the nitty gritty can be costly, time consuming, and risky. New rules now make it compulsory for couples to consider resolving issues themselves, before being allowed in front of a Court. It is hoped this measure will encourage families to examine the benefits of a mediation process, including collaborative proceedings, which can often be quicker and cheaper, and less risky, before racing down legal channels.

From April 2011, couples will have to show they have been in contact with an accredited mediator and have at least considered attending a session to look at how mediation might work for them.

In 2009, a total of 132,140 Divorce Petitions were filed. Some 137,480 children were involved in cases, an increase of 14% on 2008 figures. All too often, the Court process can encourage acrimony, and make it difficult for relationships to survive post divorce. Of course, where young children are involved, such relationships are essential for the benefit of the child, and the ability to co-parent following divorce can provide a powerful and positive role model moving forwards.

Collaborative practitioners have always recognised this. Jane Cowley, a Partner at Howes Percival and a Collaborative Lawyer, has seen the benefits of a Collaborative Law approach: “The collaborative process encourages parties to take responsibility for their personal lives and encourages transparent face to face negotiations, where clients set their own agenda and work constructively towards a resolution. All parties to the collaborative process undertake not to resolve their matters by making an application to Court, thus avoiding the threat of Court action when negotiations prove tricky.”