Family lawyers group Resolution is to start promoting the ‘one lawyer, two clients’ model for divorce that both law firms and unregulated providers are starting to offer.
It has sought advice from the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and counsel to ensure that its Resolution Together initiative complies with regulatory requirements around confidentiality, privilege, information sharing and conflict.
Acting for both parties has already begun, such as services offered by London firm Withers, national practice Simpson Millar and regional firm Fullers Family Law, as well as the barrister-led Divorce Surgery and unregulated business amicable.
In 2020, a senior High Court judge granted declarations making it clear that amicable did not break conflict of interest rules by acting for both husband and wife.
Last November, Resolution foresaw a future where lawyers acted for both sides of divorces as a matter of course.
Implementation of the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act, which allows couples to make joint applications to end a marriage collectively, has encouraged the move as a way to bring an amicable resolution of any disputes between the couple.
The principles and standards for Resolution Together refer to the relevant parts of the SRA, Bar Standards Board and CILEx Regulation codes and lay out how a single lawyer could work with, and advise, a couple together in suitable and appropriate cases and sets out how regulatory issues are to be handled.
The standards encompass an outline for practice and a step-by-step flowchart as to how a practitioner, detailing requirements for initial meetings, contracting, advice giving, and so on, through to final proposals and preparing any draft agreement.
They set out the importance of initial and ongoing assessment and screening at the start of – and throughout the case – for any factors which would make it inappropriate or unsafe to proceed or continue with advising the couple together, along with a model retainer and agreement.
Resolution is to offer training and guidance to members later this year.
Resolution chair Juliet Harvey stressed that Resolution Together was just another option lawyers could offer: “Increasingly, clients are expecting, or in some cases demanding, new approaches that we haven’t been able to offer in the past.
“With the introduction of no-fault divorce and, for the first time, the opportunity to make a joint application that came with it, demand for this type of approach is only going to increase.
“Indeed, many firms are already providing, or looking to provide, this approach: that’s why we want to provide a way of working under the Resolution banner, in keeping with our code of practice.”
The John Cornwell Foundation provided a “generous donation” to fund counsel’s opinion on the regulatory issues; John Cornwell was Resolution’s founder 40 years ago.
To learn more about the initiative, Resolution is holding a webinar on 12 July.