What is collaborative law?
Collaborative law, collaborative practice and the collaborative process all mean the same thing. It is a recognized family dispute resolution method used by people who are ending a relationship to reach a separation agreement. This agreement might include the division of property, support payments and a parenting plan agreement if there are children.
How does collaborative law work?
Collaborative law involves a team of professionals working together to help you and your former partner make decisions that work for both of you.
A family professional helps the couple to open up the lines of communication, build trust, resolve conflict and focus on the children’s needs. The family professional is at the top of this list for a reason. They are key to successful cases. Without them, negotiations can get derailed.
A financial professional with expertise in financial planning, tax or business valuation works with the couple. They help build a mutual understanding of the financial picture and streamline the exchange of financial information. They ensure that everyone is on an equal footing in terms of understanding financial issues.
Lawyers are collaboratively trained. Like the family and financial professional, they have training and skills in negotiation, conflict resolution and creating client-centred settlements. Collaborative lawyers are able to focus on pure legal work – giving legal advice, negotiating, and drafting agreements.
The couple and their lawyers sign a Participation Agreement that sets out the ground rules for the collaborative process. Lawyers must resign if the case does not settle. This helps to preserve the confidentiality of the collaborative process and keeps everyone working hard to resolve the case.
With all these people involved, won’t the collaborative process be costly?
Costs are significantly lower than court. You are sharing the cost of the family professional and the financial professional. Without them your overall costs will be higher because your lawyer’s fees will be higher.
Why does collaboration work?
- Collaborative professionals are typically drawn to this work as they are purpose-driven. The goal is to help families move forward in full appreciation of their legal rights towards an agreement that is acceptable to both parties. They want to help people avoid court if they can.
- Stress is reduced. You are not in an adversarial setting. Instead, you have a team of like-minded professionals working together to help you and your spouse navigate challenges.
- It is faster than court. The case moves as quickly as you and your spouse are willing and able to move ahead. No one has to wait to set a court date to do anything.
- Most collaborative cases get resolved.
What if the case isn’t resolved?
If you do reach a stalemate, you can bring a mediator into the collaborative process to try to resolve the impasse. However, if no settlement is reached, you and your partner can switch to mediation, mediation/arbitration, arbitration or court, but likely on a reduced number of issues and with a lot of the groundwork already completed.
Who can use collaborative law?
People who were married or lived common law can use collaborative law. However, collaboration is not appropriate in all cases, including cases involving family violence.
Consult a lawyer about what is best for you. Let’s schedule a consultation.
More information on the collaborative process
Learn more about collaborative law by visiting these organizations: