On our recent trip to Morocco we regularly found ourselves strolling through the souks in Marrakech. What would take a few minutes to purchase at home, takes much longer there when you have to barter over the price of every item. Outdoor Man and Little Girl were initially reluctant to throw themselves wholeheartedly into this unique shopping experience. I was less inhibited and could only put it down to my experience as a divorce lawyer.
“You mean you haggle over houses and belongings,” Little Girl snorted in disgust, as I exchanged dirhams for a leather bag.
“It’s called negotiation,” I pointed out in response.
“Ridiculous,” she replied.
How blunt teenagers are I thought and the trouble, of course, was that she was right.
Now I appreciate that it might not be entirely appropriate to ask a vendor in the souk to be open and transparent with me but it is probably no more ridiculous than to expect a married couple to take up extreme positions and then seek to bargain their way to a compromise. As with the shop-seller there is always scope for a settlement lurking somewhere in between the two and haggling to get there only delays the inevitable and, in the case of marriage breakdown, add to feelings of mistrust and bitterness.
Collaborative law offers a genuine alternative for couples who are prepared to work together in a controlled and constructive way, to avoid posturing and the adoption of unreasonable positions. It isn’t suitable for everyone but it is an option that many clients should consider and discuss with their lawyers before deciding on the best route for securing a settlement in their own case. Whilst I doubt it will ever catch on in the markets of North Africa (and I do not intend to be the first to ask a vendor there to exchange anchor statements and sign a participation agreement before we agree on the price for a hand-woven carpet) it is already becoming a common process here in the UK.