Collaborative family law is a process where everyone agrees to work together (to collaborate) to create acceptable solutions that work well for both parties, and without going to court.
There are some basic differences between the collaborative approach and the traditional adversarial approach. In the collaborative approach:
- Both parties agree to stay out of court
- The emphasis is on creating solutions that address the values and goals of both parties and their children
- The objective is to reach an efficient, comprehensive settlement of all issues and learn new communication skills while doing this.
- Clients are invited to consider how they want to resolve matters and how they might best go about creating or achieving positive solutions for themselves, their children, and their families. This can bring about a completely different outcome from the traditional adversarial approach.
Clients can access an interdisciplinary team of professionals to assist with their transition, arising from their divorce or separation. The professionals include divorce coaches, child specialists, financial specialists and lawyers.
Divorce Coaches are licensed, registered professionals who are trained in the Collaborative Process to help clients navigate the communication and emotional responses that come up while going through separation or divorce. They are the emotional “thermometer” for the Team during Team Meetings, and help the lawyers and clients to learn new and better communication patterns to help resolve the legal matters. The clients may both work with the same Divorce Coach or they may each work with an individual Divorce Coach, and they can meet separately from the lawyers and financial specialists to practice building new communication patterns and learning problem-solving skills, not just for use during the Collaborative Process as the parties’ separate or divorce, but also in the future throughout the span of the family’s development.
Child Specialists are experienced, registered professionals with specific training in child psychology and child development as well as the Collaborative Process. They will assist the Team as families move through the challenges that come with separation or divorce between the parents. The focus of the Child Specialist is to help parents understand the emotional and practical needs of each child, as the family changes its structure. The parents may meet with the Child Specialist separate from the rest of the Team or the Child Specialist may attend a Team Meeting.
Collaborative Financial Professionals are accountants, financial advisors and chartered business valuators who work as part of your team to resolve any financial issues. Collaborative Financial Professionals help you plan a fair distribution of your assets for the long-term security of your whole family. They help you get an accurate picture of your current financial situation and choose the best financial options for your future. Some of the areas Collaborative Financial Professionals can help you with include:
- Gathering all the financial information so you have all the facts and nothing is hidden
- Educating the partner with less financial knowledge
- Identifying tax issues
- Determining the fair market value of your business
- Determining spousal and child support amounts
- Preparing a fair division of assets
- Creating a budget and retirement plan
- Planning debt repayment
Collaborative Family Lawyers are lawyers who understand the dynamics that families experience when they face a transition in their relationship or family. Their goal is to support you with legal information and advice, and work with you, your spouse and the other professionals in the Process to find a resolution that meets the needs of you and your spouse. The Collaborative family lawyers will model respectful communication, guide you through gathering information, exploring options, and finding a combination of those options that work best for you and your family. The professionals work as a team, preparing together in advance of the Team meetings with clients, to make sure that the Team meetings with clients are as successful as they can be. Rather than approaching discussions from a position, or advocating for their client in an adversarial way, the lawyers share information and discuss the options openly and transparently, together with the clients. In this way, the agreements reached are thorough, well-reasoned, and durable.
For more detailed information, see the article “What is Collaborative Family Law?” on our articles page.