Family solicitors have reported a rise in the number of clients asking for prenuptial agreements to be prepared using the collaborative law model.
Suzanne Kingston, a partner at London firm Dawsons, said about 50% of the pre- and postnuptial agreements she completed last year were done collaboratively.
‘The traditional method is oppositional, and couples are moving away from that. They want to begin their married life on a better footing where [documents are drawn up] consensually and together,’ said Kingston.
The collaborative approach in general aims to resolve family disputes without going to court, through a series of face-to-face meetings between the parties and their lawyers.
Kingston said there has been an increase generally in the number of people using the collaborative process, as the number of lawyers trained in it has grown and clients are increasingly looking for less stressful and less costly ways to settle their affairs. ‘The change in regulations regarding transparency of the family courts in the media has also fuelled the take-up of collaborative law, as parties want to ensure their dispute remains private,’ she said.
Gillian Bishop, a partner at London’s Family Law Partnership, said she has seen a similar increase. She said using the collaborative model to prepare prenuptial agreements diminished any inequality in power between the parties.
Collaborative agreements, she said, are more likely to be upheld in court, because it would be harder for one party to say that they had no choice about entering the agreement where they have attended several joint sessions and actively participated in the discussions.
Emma Harte, chair of Resolution’s alternative dispute resolution committee, said the use of prenuptial agreements had grown since the Radmacher decision, in which the Court of Appeal indicated that they should be upheld unless there was good reason not to do so.
She added: ‘There’s a growing awareness among clients of collaborative law. They are increasing seeking out collaborative lawyers and raising it as an option before we even tell them about it.’