Collaborative Law Allows for a Kind Divorce

Collaborative Divorce

When it’s time to divorce, spouses have important choices to make about how to proceed and what type of help they’ll ask for from others — including lawyers, mediators, and other professionals. Some people will go on to a lengthy high-conflict divorce with attorneys representing each side, trying to get everything they possibly can. Others will easily agree on how to divide their property and share custody of their children, and might only need help in preparing the legal paperwork to get divorced. But many people fall in the middle, and for those folks,
Divorcing spouses may have different points of view on issues like property division, custody, or support.

What Is Collaborative Family Law?

Collaborative family law is a new approach to dealing with separation and divorce issues that doesn’t involve the courts. If you adopt this process you and your respective lawyers formally agree (i.e. sign a written agreement) to work together to find a mutually acceptable and fair solution to your financial and child related issues – without involving the courts.

This approach is based on a team effort. You, your former partner, your lawyers and other professionals where required work together to resolve whatever is in dispute e.g. child support, division of assets or parenting of the children.

Early, nonadversarial, participation by attorneys allows the parties and attorneys to use the more positive aspects of good lawyering not often seen in adversarial proceedings, such as:

  • Rational analysis
  • Creative problem solving
  • Generating multiple options
  • Maintaining a positive context for settlement and
  • Building a foundation for long-term co-parenting

If your lawyers are unable to get you and your former partner to reach an agreement and you want to take the matter to court, they must resign from the case and you will need to hire new lawyers.

The Collaborative Divorce Process

The Collaborative Divorce model was developed by a group of attorneys, mental health professionals and financial planning experts whose experience with traditional divorce led them to the conclusion that litigation is injurious to families and especially to children. They were certain they could develop a healthier way to help families through divorce. The Collaborative Divorce model has grown rapidly with practitioners throughout the United States and Canada.

Each party has a Collaborative Family Law attorney. In individual meetings with the client, and in joint meetings with the other attorney and the other party, each attorney will:

  1. Represent the best interests of his/her respective client while maintaining the overall goals of the Collaborative Process.
  2. Work with the other attorney and the Collaborative Team to help the parties design the settlement agreement that is most appropriate for their family.
  3. Facilitate the settlement discussion and incorporate client agreements into the final settlement documents.
  4. Prepare all the documents that need to be filed with the Court.

The Collaborative Team financial specialist works with the couple to:

  1. Provide on-going, practical financial guidance, planning, support, and budgeting guidance throughout the divorce process.
  2. Assist with the discovery process by gathering and organizing documentation and information relating to the parties’ incomes, expenses, assets, and debts.
  3. Make sure that both parties have a thorough understanding of their current financial situation.
  4. Educate the clients regarding the short and long-term economic consequences of settlement plans being considered so as to enable them to make fully informed decisions and choose what is most appropriate for their situation.

There are requirements for what constitutes a Collaborative Divorce. Both parties must dedicate themselves to honesty, openness and a willingness to place the welfare of the entire family first. The desire to change ineffective communication patterns and the commitment to work at change are vital to a successful outcome. Communication training is as critical to the process as the legal and financial negotiations. If dysfunctional patterns are not changed, conflict persists. It is this focus on changing the couple’s way of interacting with each other that makes the Collaborative Divorce process a better approach to both divorce, and post divorce co-parenting.

What Are The Advantages Of Collaborative Family Law?

  • Promotes co-operation between you and your former partner
  • You both have legal advisors at every stage of the process
  • Clients are often encouraged to bring in different experts where appropriate such as child specialists, counsellors, accountants and financial advisers
  • Generally saves you time and money
  • You are guaranteed that your lawyers will do their best to reach a fair agreement and try to keep you out of court
  • Litigation can never be threatened
  • Likely to produce an agreement that meets both your own needs

What Is The Difference Between Collaborative Law And Mediation?

Mediation involves a neutral third person (a mediator) that facilitates discussion between you and your former partner and does not give legal advice.

In a collaborative process there are 4 people involved in all meetings:

  • You
  • Your former partner
  • Your lawyer
  • Your former partner’s lawyer

What Are The Key Features Of Collaborative Law?

  • You, your former partner and both collaborative lawyers work as a team versus ‘opposing parties’
  • You, your spouse and both collaborative lawyers sign a contract agreeing not to go to court
  • The Collaborative Family Law Process uses informal discussions and conferences to settle all issues
  • Collaborative Divorce offers separating couples an inter-disciplinary way of dealing with separation and divorce
  • Offers a dispute resolution model that provides a structure for both emotional support and legal guidance

What Are The Differences Between A Collaborative And Traditional Approach?

In a collaborative approach:

  • Both parties agree to stay out of court
  • The emphasis is on creating solutions that address the needs and values of the whole family
  • The main goal is to reach a fair, equitable and comprehensive settlement of all issues outside of a court room

Collaborative law is not for everyone.

Not everyone is a good fit for collaborative law. Collaborative law will not help if one spouse is bound and determined to destroy the relationship. Similarly, if the opposing attorney is a true savage, he or she will have to work extremely hard to re-train the mind.

If you talk to divorced people, you’ll find that many of them regret their divorce or the fact that they can’t be in the same room together at their child’s high school graduation. Collaborative law allows parties to obtain a divorce while maintaining their self-esteem and being ready to move on with their lives.

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