A group of 15 law firms in Yorkshire and the north-east have joined forces with a specialist divorce coach and independent financial adviser (IFA) to offer what they say is the first fixed-fee collaborative divorce service.
There are plans to expand Dovetail Divorce Solutions across the country, starting with Manchester.
Dovetail is the brainchild of Leeds-based IFA Robert Cresswell of Gordian Financial Services – one of just 79 IFAs who have undergone training in collaborative law by family lawyers group Resolution – and Wakefield-based coach Clare Walters of Absolute Specialists.
The firms who have signed up contribute to the joint marketing of the service. They are: Ardent Law, Berwins, Clarion, David Gray, DWF, Eatons, Irwin Mitchell, MCF, McKeag & Co, MKB, Raworths, Simpson Millar, Simpson Sissons & Brooke, Taylor & Emmet, and Taylor Bracewell.
Dovetail provides an online cost calculator, where clients answer 27 questions about their circumstances and to receive an instant quote. They then select a lawyer from the list of participating firms and at an initial meeting, the fixed fee is confirmed. There is access to an unsecured finance broker to arrange credit to spread payment of the fee if required.
Clients meet with their divorce coach and IFA before getting into the detailed legal issues. An agreed number of collaborative meetings is included in the fixed fee, although couples can have more for a further fixed fee.
Michaela Heathcote, head of the family team at Taylor & Emmet in Sheffield, said the one-stop approach ensured that the right people are used for the right tasks. “Divorce clients cry on [their lawyers’] shoulders for £200 an hour, but we don’t have the right skills,” she said.
Mr Cresswell said: “Combining the collaborative approach to finding a solution without a fight, along with a clear pricing structure and a genuine fixed fee is a solution to suit everyone.”
He said the aim was to give those involved a “marketing edge”, and that as Dovetail builds its strength and brand awareness in the north-east, he will look to spread it out, possibly on a franchise basis.
He is already talking to lawyers in areas such as Manchester, Chesterfield, Doncaster and Grimsby, although there will be a cap on how many collaborative lawyers can sign up in each area.
Earlier this week Riverview Law launched a fixed-fee divorce service for high net-worth couples.