Divorce without court. Amicable divorce. Good divorce. Civilised separation. There are many ways you can describe the idea of preserving your health, your wealth and your family after separation. And there are many ways to go about making sure your marriage or relationship doesn’t end in an expensive war of words between lawyers, that could do lasting damage to everyone.

Most people don’t know who they should turn to when they decide to separate. Does that include you? The chances are that you think the logical next step is to see a family lawyer. Even if you have heard about mediation, collaborative practice or arbitration, you may not know how to locate any of those services.

You probably hope that the lawyer you see will help you to stay out of court, and reach an amicable settlement with your ex. You could get lucky in your choice of lawyer. And in turn, you could get lucky with the lawyer your ex chooses. And you could get even luckier if they get on and can help you to unpack your relationship, and focus on making the best of the future for you and your whole fmaily. The truth is, that is not very likely, and do you really want to rely on luck to get you through such a difficult time as this?

The lawyer you or your spouse first consult can have a huge impact on your family’s experience of separation and divorce.

Most lawyers will tell you that they settle most of their cases. What they won’t be able to tell you is just how they are going to do that, because the “how” is going to depend on the other lawyer involved. There are no rules for how lawyers approach settlement. Unless you and your ex have educated yourselves and agreed on the approach you want to take- mediation, collaboration, round table conferencing, arbitration, you merely leave it to luck. You both need to deliver the same message to your separate lawyers, and they need to heed what you say and have the skills and willingness to deliver what you want. You could get lucky. Or not.

Collaborative lawyers can meet you together to give information about staying out of court, using a clear and supported pathway. This is not about leaving it to luck. You will hear the same information from the same person at the same time. You can be put in touch with, perhaps, a psychologist and financial planner, who will form a team with a lawyer for each of you, to help you through your separation, focusing on the future and the wellbeing of all your family. Be sure that the collaborative lawyer can walk the walk, and not just say some nice words on their website. Ask questions about their experience, and about their successes and failures. Ask your collaborative lawyer about mediation, co-operative negotiation, arbitration, so that you can compare, and be informed about what is going to work best for you.

Collaborative lawyers are highly committed to not only keeping you out of court, but seeing your separation as more of an emotional crisis than a legal crisis. They have an enlightened view of separation and divorce. And if you decide to meet one, that’s extremely lucky.