Collaborative Family Law

“We are a group of leading family lawyers committed to resolving family differences through discussion and agreement rather than using the court process…..Some of us are barristers, others are solicitors, and all of us are members of the International Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (IAML) an organisation of leading family lawyers from all over the world.”  (

Lord Wilson of Culworth gave a speech at a reception hosted by Collaborative Family Law (CFL), at the Reform Club on 29 November 2011.  A totally delusional speech for the first part of his speech. A critical analysis has been provided for those interested to know how a disturbed legal mind can work. Click here.

It is interesting to note how such organisations as the CFL are allowing the hand of the government in the implementation of the law and interference with family life (a breach of Human Rights Act).

At paragraph 15 of the speech the following is being related by Lord Wilson to promote CFL:

“Collaborative Family Law offers various mechanisms of dispute resolution which, in most cases, will much better serve the interests of the parties than those to which I have referred. In a way unfortunately the Group’s new name disguises the mechanisms which it offers other than that of collaborative law; clearly, however, the collaborative mechanism is at its centre. It was introduced into the UK from the US about eight years ago and it has achieved an astonishing level of success in the negotiation of substantial financial and other issues (and indeed, for example, in the generation of pre-nuptial agreements, nowadays likely to be held binding, in circumstances in which at the time of their generation there may well be no issue at all). The platform necessary for the collaborative exercise is a high level of residual trust between the parties, who instruct specially trained collaborative solicitors to participate in meetings between all four of them across only one table. Hence the Group’s logo of four loose pieces of jigsaw able, or (on my closer study) almost able, to fit together. But the unusual – and, to my mind, the essential – feature of the collaborative exercise is a written agreement on the part of all four of them at the outset that, were settlement not to be achieved, the respective solicitors would not continue to act for the parties in the contentious proceedings which lie ahead. The solicitors are therefore seen to have no interest in the continuation of the dispute; the parties have every interest in not being obliged to disinstruct solicitors in whom they have confidence; and in the dialogue each can respond freely to the other’s solicitor without suspecting that he is collecting ammunition for use in court.


At paragraph 16, Lord Wilson states:

“The Group also offers mediation, being of course a totally different exercise. It is family mediation to which the government is a belated convert; and presently it proposes to fund mediation in circumstances in which it will not fund litigation. Indeed new rules require the undertaking of at any rate an assessment of the suitability of the parties for mediation before many applications to court may even now be issued.  As President of the Family Mediators Association for the past 13 years, I have a profound commitment to family mediation and, prior to my appointment last May which has thrown my plans into wonderful disarray, I was planning soon to retire from the Court of Appeal and to ask the Association to train me as a family mediator. But it might not have been easy for a reasonably decisive judge to transmute into a subtle facilitator. The mediator, who, if provided from within this Group, would happen to be a lawyer but would not be acting as a lawyer, generally operates with the parties on their own, although it is wise for them to have lawyers to whom they can turn for advice between sessions. By deft handling of the discussions, he enables them to move to common ground, whereupon, with his help, they record an agreement which resolves – or at least narrows – the issues and which, like the product of a successful collaborative exercise, can cover much more ground than can the contents of a court order.”

Read the full speech on Supreme Court website. Click here. (If the document is removed please email us for a copy.)

Return to Lord Wilson’s profile. Click here.