Kath Hill, Head of the Family Law Department at Swinburne Maddison LLP, has been a family lawyer for 25 years. Kath, who is accredited by the Law Society, also qualified as a mediator in 2000.
She has always sought to change the way that people resolve family breakdown and therefore trained and qualified as a Collaborative Lawyer in 2007. Since its introduction, Kath has seen a steady increase in collaborative work and in fact has dealt with the most collaborative law cases in the North East region.
Because of her belief and confidence in using alternative methods when dealing with family breakdown, she promotes collaborative law to every new client she meets, with a significant number of them deciding to engage in the process.
Using the collaborative process means that each party still has their own specially trained lawyer but instead of negotiating via correspondence or through court, all four meet and work issues out around the table, together. It also means that the parties are in control of the decisions so that they can make the right choices for their family. The common goal is to reach a settlement which meets the needs of the whole family, putting the interests of the children first.
The parties and lawyers make a commitment at the outset to avoid court and to work together constructively, respectfully, openly and honestly to resolve the issues. If discussions breakdown and one person wish to ask the court to make the decisions, both parties have to instruct different lawyers. Kath views this rule as the cement that holds the process together as it shows that even the lawyers have to be totally committed to the process.
Professionals such as family consultants, accountants and financial advisers can be brought in to assist if everyone agrees to do so.
The collaborative process is flexible, allowing clients to choose the issues that they want to discuss. Meetings can be arranged at a time and place to suit the parties. This often means that issues are resolved more quickly and, in Kath’s, view far more cost effectively too.
Clients who have used the process have given positive feedback using words such as “dignified” and the way to a “good divorce”.
A further alternative way to resolve issues is through mediation. This process involves parties attending sessions with a mediator who facilitates and assists negotiations. Each party also need their own independent legal advice to enable them to negotiate. In her role as a mediator Kath takes referrals from other solicitors and also people who have found her name on the MOPJ Register of Accredited Mediators. Again, this is a positive way of dealing with disputes if clients feel comfortable having no legal advisers in the room.
Swinburne Maddison’s family law department advises on a wide range of issues including pre and post nuptial agreements, children related matters and care proceedings, domestic violence, and divorce and separation, as well as financial matters.
For further information Kath can be contacted on 0191 384 2441 or by email on firstname.lastname@example.org