Collaborative family law or collaborative practice, can be defined as an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process. Collaborative lawyers can be used in the midst of a divorce or separation, for a variety of reasons, such as parenting, spousal support, child support, income sharing, and property division. The final resolutions agreed upon during the collaborative family law process will then be turned into a valid and binding agreement.
Created in the early 1990s by Stu Webb, a Minneapolis, Minnesota-based lawyer, CFL provides couples with a safe space to resolve legal issues out of court. The aim of the CFL process is to help clients make the best possible decisions for themselves, as well as their children. This type of family law is often quicker and much less costly than litigation.
In addition to a collaborative family lawyer, the process can also include social workers, financial planners, child specialists, parenting coaches, and other third-party specialists for additional support.
Collaborative family lawyers can be found in most major cities throughout North America.
Collaborative Family Law Process
The collaborative family law process is quite straightforward. It consists of a four-way meeting between the spouses, the collaborative family lawyer, and a third-party specialist. All parties will be introduced to the collaborative family law process and sign a Participation Agreement. This Agreement consists of general provisions relevant to the process, confidentiality clauses, and provisions in case of failure to reach resolution.
Then, the spouses will be encouraged to discuss objectives and reasons for selecting this process. An agenda for future meetings will be devised, as well as discussion regarding financial information. Subsequent meetings with deal with resolving the problem, including child custody and division of assets.
Upon reaching a resolution, couples will sign a written document or separation agreement.
Benefits of Using a Collaborative Family Lawyer
Collaborative family lawyers are often specially trained in using cooperative ways to allow partners to come to an understanding quickly. In addition, they can help couples make informed decisions.
Collaborative lawyers often specific compete training courses. For example, in Ontario, lawyers complete courses offered by the Ontario Collaborative Law Federation. Keep in mind that training and courses vary by province and state.
Collaborative family law is perfect for couples who wish to resolve their problems in a calm and open manner. This process aims to be amicable and protect all parties from the possible harm associated with litigation and court. It also avoids the costs associated with litigation and court.
In addition, the collaborative process allows all parties involved to have a say and have their position heard. The process is also not bound by rigid rules, as seen in court, allowing for flexible and creative solutions. In addition, collaborative family law is also much more comfortable than a court setting, which may be stressful for all and frightening for any children involved.
One important note to keep in mind is that CFL is not for everyone. This process involves the couple working very closely together to resolve issues. An element of amicability and respect must be present in the relationship.
Clients must keep an open mind and think of the family’s interests as a whole.
What Occurs in Case of Non-Resolution
If couples are unable to reach a resolution, collaborative family lawyers may advise further mediation, which allow couples to further discuss problems. If mediation fails as well, they may suggest arbitration, a form of dispute resolution resembling litigation. Final decision-making authority is left in the hands of the arbitrator.
Helpful Questions to Ask One’s Collaborative Family Lawyer
Before hiring a collaborative family lawyer, it is beneficial to ask oneself a series of questions to determine the process’ suitability for one’s family.
- How important is maintaining a positive relationship with my spouse post-separation?
- Am I able to work toward a mutual solution to our problems?
- Can I act objectively and put aside my feelings?
- Can I respect my spouse even in disagreement?
- Can I work collaboratively?
Costs of Collaborative Family Law
The costs associated with collaborative family law vary, depending on the nature of the problem and the reputation and expertise of the family law firm. However, overall, collaborative family law is much more cost effective and less time consuming than court.
Costs can be shared among the couple, and there are no cost associated with last-minute briefs and affidavits. In addition, couples can control the timing and frequency of meetings, keeping costs low.
Do not hesitate to contact one’s local collaborative family law firm for rates and additional details. Many firms like this law firm in Toronto offer easy consultations through handy online forms.
Collaborative family law is quickly becoming a quick and cost effective alternative to litigation and court. Various family lawyers across North America are available for consultation.