What is collaborative law?
Collaborative Law is a method of dispute resolution outside of the Court process.
Collaborative Family Law is a form of negotiation that tries to minimize conflict, with the parties and their lawyers agreeing to make a good faith attempt to reach a mutually acceptable settlement without going to court. Working together, they strive to end their relationship in a way that addresses everyone’s legal, financial, and emotional needs. The Collaborative process also helps parents plan for their future and that of their children.
This process involves the use of “interest based” negotiation. Other process choices that are available to clients include positional bargaining while moving through the court process, arbitration and mediation.
It is also recommended that Collaborative Law be used to negotiate Co-habitation Agreements and Marriage Contracts.
Is collaborative law right for you?
Collaborative law enables the parties to separate with dignity. Collaborative Family Law is ideal if you and your separating partner:
- Share an interest in protecting your children from the harm litigation can inflict
- Place a high value on personal responsibility in resolving conflict
- Are able to focus on a positive solution for the entire family
- Want to preserve a respectful working relationship after the process is over
- Recognize the need to disclose full and accurate information about financial issues
How it works
Each party meets initially with their respective Collaborative lawyer to discuss individual needs and concerns. Each would sign a Collaborative Law Retainer Agreement. The couple and their lawyers would then meet in four-way sessions to negotiate. At the first four-way meeting, all will review and sign a Participation Agreement and then decide which issues to discuss first. Every issue – including property division, custody and support – is open for discussion in these sessions.
The parties and the lawyers will decide if other professionals such as child psychologists, divorce coaches, business valuators, pension valuators, etc. are needed to assist the negotiations.
Separating parties benefit from the skills, advice and support of the two lawyers while striving to work out a resolution in a positive and respectful manner.
When a settlement is reached, the lawyers draft a legal and binding Separation Agreement. The Separation Agreement may be filed with the Court or the Agreement may be converted into a Final Order or Divorce Judgment without the need to be physically present at Court.
The advantages of Collaborative Law
You retain control. Though you each have a lawyer, you and your spouse take responsibility for shaping the settlement as key members of the team.
Children come first and their needs will take priority and will be the focus of the group. There is no easy way to end a relationship but by working in a climate of co-operation and treating each other with respect, you create an environment that benefits you and your children.
Your lawyer is by your side. You craft the settlement co-operatively with your spouse while benefiting from your lawyer’s advocacy, problem-solving and negotiating skills. Face-to-face meetings in the presence of lawyers make negotiations direct and efficient and allow for mutually created resolutions.
You focus on settlement. Removing the threat of “going to court” reduces anxiety, stress and fear, thereby helping you focus on finding a mutually beneficial solution. An atmosphere of respect helps preserve self esteem and open communication allows both of you to express your needs and build a basis for effective problem-solving in the future.
You get more from your resources. The collaborative process is usually less costly and time-consuming than litigation. When you reach an agreement, it can be finalized more quickly and you don’t get bogged down for months waiting for a court date.
You negotiate a settlement that works for your unique situation. Every family is unique and every family deserves a customized solution to the issues raised in their separation or divorce. The collaborative process produces final agreements that are frequently more detailed and complete than any order that would be issued by a judge after a contested court proceeding.
What clients say about Collaborative Law *
* Excerpt from IACP web site
- “I was pleased with the process and will recommend it to anyone I know who is...thinking about separation or divorce”
- “It was very emotional but also empowering for me to negotiate the settlement that I felt was fair for both parties.”
- “It was a positive process for me. I actually found the self-confidence to stand up for myself and verbalize my own needs.”
- “... we were able to negotiate what felt fair to both of us.”
- “I was pleased that it actually cost less than I figured”
- “Well, we can pay people to fight for each of us, or we can fight and pay people to referee, or we can work it out and pay people to help us. I’d rather do the last one!”
- “I’m really glad we chose this process. For our family and for each other, it allows us to have sustainable amicability”
- “You listened well to me, and my upset and my needs. You handled things in an orderly, thorough and gentle manner. I feel I got every penny’s worth...”
- “The collaborative process provided three significant benefits: (1) the private nature in which it is performed; (2) less contentiousness and therefore, less anxiety-ridden; and (3) the outcome seemed fair for both parties. You embodied confidence and compassion. These are two traits which were necessary to help me feel comfortable and focused through this painful situation.”
- “... made me feel important, and that everything was done as your highest priority... I like the collaborative process. It is clear and when it is not clear, questioning the problem brings an answer”
- “Thank you for everything you have done for my family and me. I can finally get some sleep!”
- “... Divorce is difficult, and with the passage of time, and all of your help and support, my life is happy. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
- “It’s done. I can sleep. I can laugh. I can play. All thanks to you.”