What is Collaborative Family Law?

Divorce Lawyer, Family Lawyer | August 16, 2023 | Written by Crystal Arbour

Collaborative Divorce is a process where issues arising from a relationship breakdown are dealt with entirely outside of court. It is not a new idea, but it is rising in popularity to meet the need for amicable and cost-effective solutions.

Each party retains their own Collaborative Lawyer and signs a Participation Agreement. The Agreement, among other things, states that the parties will not initiate a court action against each other during the Collaborative Process. In fact, the Collaborative Lawyers are disqualified from providing services or representation if the Collaborative Process ends and the parties go to court.

The parties meet in scheduled group settings to discuss all of the issues at hand. They jointly retain experts such as Divorce Coaches, business valuators, appraisers, and other financial specialists to help inform these discussions by establishing important baselines and fair assessments of the facts.

The outcome of a completed Collaborative Process is a thorough separation agreement including support, asset, and debt division, and if you have children, a parenting plan.

What’s The Difference Between Collaborative and Other ADR Processes?

While there are many ways to collaborate throughout a Family Law dispute, Collaborative Family Law is a specific process defined by clear guidelines. The lawyers and other professionals involved are trained and certified in the Collaborative Process, and it always includes an agreement at the outset establishing ground rules such as the promise not to litigate.

It is important to distinguish between Collaborative Family Law and the general idea of collaborating alongside litigation in a Family Law Dispute; Collaborative Family Law is entirely separate from the traditional process, where there is always the option of giving up on a discussion and proceeding to court.

Collaborative Divorce does not include Mediation or Arbitration, both of which are avenues of Alternative Dispute Resolution that can be incorporated in a traditional litigation model.

What Are The Benefits of Collaborative Divorce?

Collaborative Family Law, first and foremost, provides the benefit of increased cooperation between the parties. Both parties commit to the process in good faith at the beginning, and with the help of the Collaborative Professionals involved, they can keep a clear, open and honest dialogue and work through even the thorniest issues while minimizing emotional reactions.

The clients benefit from ongoing legal advice (such as consideration of limitation periods and relevant case law) and financial advice (budget planning for two households and responsible division of assets and debts). They also receive the emotional support and parenting advice provided by a Divorce Coach.

Part of the agreement guiding Collaborative Divorce is full financial disclosure which is available to all parties and their professionals. Having full symmetry of information on all sides leads to fairer and more sustainable outcomes.

There is also a greater degree of control over outcomes when compared with going to court. Parties in the Collaborative Process are empowered to decide for themselves, with the full knowledge of their own lived experience, what is best for their futures.

Collaborative Family Law can also be more cost-effective than going to court. Litigation can and often does drag on for years, with many single-issue court applications at a cost of thousands of dollars each; the risk of being adjourned for lack of a Judge or court time; and ultimately the potential of a multi-day or multi-week trial.

Who Does It Work For?

Collaborative Divorce works for solution-minded individuals with a desire for a low-conflict resolution. Whether you have a lot or relatively little at stake, the Collaborative Process can help you protect your assets from being diluted by a string of adversarial court appearances.

Families who wish to insulate themselves and their children from the negative aspects of litigation will definitely enjoy the Collaborative approach. There can and will be conflict within the discussions between parties, but Collaborative Divorce is geared toward resolving that conflict in the most positive way possible. Family Law litigation, on the other hand, can sometimes bring out the worst in two opposing parties, and this can have lifelong adverse affects on the relationships with their children.

Collaborative Family Law might not be right for you if there is a history of family violence, or if there are mental health or substance abuse issues present in the relationship. There are still other Alternative Dispute Resolution methods suitable in these cases. But for many families, Collaborative Family Law represents a lower-impact, solution-minded and more cost-effective option.

To learn more about alternative dispute resolution, including Collaborative Law, contact the experts at Linley Welwood LLP.

© Linley Welwood LLP. The contents of this article do not constitute legal advice. Readers should seek legal advice in relation to their own specific circumstances.

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