When you decide on Collaborative Process, each of you hires a lawyer who has had specialist training in Collaborative Process. Everyone agrees in writing not to go to court. You will meet privately and in face-to-face talks with your Collaborative professional team, which may also include coaches, financial professionals and/or child specialists. All meetings are intended to produce an honest exchange of information and clear understanding about needs and expectations, especially concerning the well-being of children. Mutual problem-solving by all parties leads to the final agreement.
Collaborative Practice FAQs
A Collaborative team is the combination of professionals that you choose to work with to resolve your dispute. It can be you and your Collaborative lawyers, or you may want to include other professionals on the team. You and your partner can choose to include other professionals such as neutral financial professionals, coaches, communication and family professionals, child specialists or others whom have had specialist training in Collaborative Process. Your Collaborative team will guide and support you as problem-solvers, not as adversaries.
Collaborative Process (which encompasses the terms Collaborative Law, Collaborative Practice and Collaborative Divorce) has four key elements:
- A voluntary, free and open exchange of information. The best decisions will always be fully informed. Collaborative Process is about disclosing all relevant information necessary to make good decisions, not hiding it.
- A genuine commitment and pledge not to go to court. You, your spouse and the professionals make a written commitment to strive only for settlement. For the professionals, that means if someone decides to exit the process and start litigation they cannot continue acting for you. This helps to ensure that the professionals’ motivations align with yours. They have no incentive to make things contentious or worse - in fact, doing so could lead to failure of the process and their termination. Also, no need to fear the other spouse’s lawyer ever taking you on in court - they literally cannot. This means the focus during the Collaborative Process is solely on helping you reach an agreement.
- A balanced commitment to respect both parties' shared goals and the needs of the whole family. Collaborative Process is centered on finding resolutions that take into account the things that are important to each of you. Throughout the process, collaborative professionals will assist you and your spouse to clarify your interests, refine your priorities and think creatively to find durable solutions that work for both of you.
Strong feelings about the relationship and dysfunctional communication are normal post-separation. Those big emotions don’t change the fact that each of you has a common goal of resolving the issues without a costly, destructive court battle. Collaborative Process helps you stay focused and communicating effectively so you and your partner can work successfully to resolve your outstanding issues.
The guiding principles of Collaborative Process are respect, dignity, openness and fairness. This respectful tone encourages you to show compassion, understanding, and cooperation. Collaborative professionals are trained in non-confrontational negotiation, helping keep discussions productive. The goal of Collaborative Process is to build a settlement on areas of agreement, not to perpetuate disagreement.
It is conflict that harms children - not separation or divorce. Collaborative Process offers a way for you to reach agreement about your finances and children that avoids creating conflict. It also fosters open communication (sometimes with a lot of help) so little things that pop up during the separation don’t needlessly create conflict. If you want to divorce in a way that will enable you to remain co-parents and have a co-operative parenting relationship, Collaborative Practice is one of the best processes to achieve that.
If you go to court to reach a decision about your family law matter, you may come to view your former partner as an adversary. Your divorce can become a battleground. The resulting conflict can have far-reaching consequences not just for you, but your children. The financial cost is often outweighed by the emotional and psychological cost.
Collaborative Process offers a respectful process focussed on reaching agreement, not battling an adversary. Your lawyers pledge in writing not to go to court. They negotiate in good faith, and work together with you to achieve mutual settlement outside the courts. Collaborative Practice eases the emotional strains of a breakup and protects the well-being of children. Unlike a court process, Collaborative Process also allows you the opportunity to address emotional issues and consider more creative financial and parenting solutions which might not be available to a judge.
There really is no “average divorce”! The complexity of your situation and the amount and intensity of the conflict between the spouses will determine the length of your Collaborative Process. However, Collaborative Process can often be more direct and efficient. By focusing on problem-solving instead of blame and grievances, there is real opportunity to strive for respectful results. Full disclosure and open communication assures that you cover all the issues in a timely manner. People having a chance to say what they need to say, and hearing the other party directly also help people function and negotiate more effectively. And since you settle out of court, there’s no wait for the multiple court dates necessary with litigation. Experience shows that Collaborative Process cases generally take less time than litigated cases especially in jurisdictions where there are delays in accessing the courts.
In mediation, a neutral third party helps you and your spouse (with or without lawyers present) to negotiate your settlement. The mediator cannot give legal advice or support one person and not the other. Many people find that they need the support and encouragement of having a professional in their corner. If you were to take lawyers to mediation, you are paying for three professionals. If you go to mediation on your own, you may feel confused and anxious. Collaborative Process addresses both of these problems.
Separation and divorce are both an ending and a beginning. Collaborative Process helps you consider your future needs and goals while keeping your children a top priority. As a more respectful, dignified process, Collaborative Process supports your family’s goals for a smoother transition to the next stage of your lives.
The content of the agreement (and how it was built) reflects the priorities and needs of both of you and thus is more likely to be a durable settlement. If you need help in the future with issues such as parenting time as the children grow older, or financial obligations under your original agreement need to be adjusted, you have Collaborative professionals who know you and your situation and can help you re-enter the Collaborative Process to settle disputes and make adjustments.
In other conflicts when the parties will have an ongoing relationship with each other, using Collaborative Process can similarly create a better foundation for future interactions and conflict resolution.
Anytime you need to preserve key relationships, business operations, sibling and extended family relationships, Civil Collaborative Practice is an effective choice to prevent draining, costly, relationship ruining and time consuming court battles.
The important difference between Civil Collaborative Practice and conventional litigation is the commitment to reach an agreement without going to court. The parties maintain control of the process and the decisions instead of relinquishing them to a judge or jury. Even in the best circumstances, a dispute can strain communication between parties; keeping the lines of communication open is essential for agreement. Civil Collaborative Practice allows for face-to-face meetings among parties with their respective lawyers, other advisors and neutral experts as needed. Sessions are designed to produce honest, open exchanges and the expression of priorities and expectations through good faith negotiations, with the goal of reaching a binding agreement that parties’ can rely upon. More information is available at the Global Collaborative Law Council.