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A rash of stories in the weekend press about brutal high profile divorce actions and the devastating impact on the families concerned suggests that any divorce process must involve mud-slinging and a ruthless desire to inflict as much emotional and financial pain on the ex spouse as possible.

The publication of distressing text exchanges between Chris Huhne and his son was perhaps the most extreme example of a family ripped apart.

Meanwhile in the Sunday Times, an embittered Duncan Bannatyne was venting fury about his ex-wife, courts and divorce lawyers, while a tiger conservation charity was being reported as being under threat as its founders fight over whether the funds used to establish the charity should form part of the divorce settlement.

All of these cases occurred in England of course where there remains a greater focus on court involvement in the divorce process at an early stage. One of Bannatyne's most outspoken complaints was that 'the court is the nearest thing you can get to a dictatorship, because you're not allowed to discuss things'. This would be less likely to be the case in Scotland where parties are encouraged to reach an agreement with the court only becoming involved to process the formalities of the legal divorce.

For couples anxious to avoid some of the viciousness that inevitably often characterises court focused divorces, use of the collaborative law process can prove more productive and allows for a less unyielding approach.

With an emphasis on four-way meetings involving the couple concerned and their solicitors, the collaborative approach can assist in ensuring that relations remain cordial and respectful. For a couple with children or mutual acquaintances collaboration can help avoid the unedifying prospect of those caught in the cross-fire having to assume sides.

While sometimes viewed as a 'soft' option, the collaborative method is not a panacea for avoiding conflict. Indeed it is often a courageous course for a party who as part of the process is required to confront and discuss difficult issues, when it can often be much easier for a separating spouse to leave it to a lawyer's letter to give vent to their feelings.

We’re always happy to discuss things further.
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