Collaborative Family Law

What is Collaborative Family Law?

Collaborative family practice is a team process that helps couples come to a mutually agreed upon, negotiated agreement without the threat of court. It offers a civilized and solutions-based approach. Collaborative Practice is based upon consideration and respect, leaving the couple in control of the process rather than a judge.

Because the parties enter an agreement that they will not go to court, the process is more flexible and less adversarial. Each client has an advocate by their side but the negotiations focus on interests and solutions, rather than on positions and demands. The process is used to improve the couple's ability to communicate and understand each other both during the process and afterwards. Divorce coaches and a neutral financial professional are part of the team. The goal is to lay a foundation for a healthier ongoing parenting relationship.

Collaborative Practice is based on three main principles:

  1. The parties agree between each other and with their team that they will not go to court.
  2. Both spouses commit to an honest and open exchange of documents and information.
  3. Each option for settlement takes into account the highest interests and goals of both spouses and their children.

Every Collaborative Family matter is focused on the needs of the entire family. From the beginning of the process, a commitment is made to keep conflict to a minimum. This not only helps assure that the process will move forward as smoothly and effectively as possible, but also allows a foundation to be built that will let family members move on positively with their life.

How Does The Collaborative Divorce Process Work?

Each of the parties retains their own independent trained collaborative lawyer (a member of IACP) who will gather information, provide the client with information about their rights, responsibilities and options, and help negotiate on their behalf. The parties work with collaborative coaches who assist them in communication and in developing a parenting plan. Where appropriate, the parties work with a Child Specialist to give the child a voice and assist the parents in determining the best interests of the child. The parties work with a neutral financial professional to fully disclose their financial information and to consider the impact of potential distributions of assets.

All negotiations are conducted in highly structured, face-to-face meetings. Each meeting will be based upon a written, agreed upon agenda and will be followed up with minutes that accurately reflect what was said and what was agreed upon.

Negotiations will address all topics that need to be resolved, including finances, property, parenting time, child support, spousal support and any other relevant matter.

If the parties are ultimately unable to arrive at an agreement on all of the issues, the collaborative team will withdraw from the process and litigation lawyers can be retained to take the matter to court.

What Are The Benefits Of Collaborative Divorce?

  • Children are given a voice in the process rather than finding themselves "caught in the middle".
  • Decision making is entirely in the hands of the parties.
  • Personal issues and information regarding income and assets are kept private.
  • Each client's needs, interests, concerns and goals are taken into account and both parties will be heard.
  • Collaboration modifies the traditionally adversarial win/lose separation litigation process into a problem-solving re-structuring process.

How Is A Collaborative Lawyer Different From a Traditional Divorce Lawyer?

Collaborative family lawyers, who are members of the IACP (International Association of Collaborative Professionals), are required to have practiced in family law and be trained in both mediation and the collaborative process. All members of the Collaborative Family Separation Professionals Group in Victoria have met the requirements of the IACP and are involved in continuing training.

The Collaborative Team Is Centered Around You

The team of collaborative professionals can assist the couple in arriving at an agreement that best meets the immediate and long term needs of the family.

These other collaborative professionals include:

  • Coaches who will assist the parties to develop better communication tools so that they can understand their spouse and be better understood when expressing their own interests and needs. Coaches also help the parties manage all of the difficult emotions that arise in the midst of divorce.
  • Child specialists who give the children a "voice" in the process and work with parents to create a parenting plan that meets the children's best interests.
  • Financial specialists who will gather and analyze financial information in order to assist the clients in make informed decisions regarding financial matters.