Collaborative Practice is an out-of-court resolution process for separating and divorcing couples. With an emphasis on full disclosure, respect, and open communication, this approach is client-directed and family-focused.
What’s the Process?
The Collaborative Process is ideal for spouses seeking an alternative to traditional, court-based approaches to divorce and separation. It’s for individuals who have children together and want to maintain the best possible family relationships, now and in the future. It’s for spouses who recognize that they’re the best at making decisions about family and finance, and not someone else. And it’s for people who place a high value on taking personal responsibility for handling conflicts with integrity.
You and your spouse each hire a specially trained Collaborative Family Lawyer who is registered with CPT and, if needed, you may also choose to work with collaboratively trained neutral family and financial professionals. Adding professionals does not necessarily mean added cost, as the goal is to distribute work between professionals in a coordinated manner. With their support and guidance, you and your spouse work together in a cooperative, non-adversarial fashion.
Sign a Participation Agreement
You and your spouse promise in writing to voluntarily disclose all financial and other relevant information, to communicate respectfully, and to act in good faith as you negotiate toward a settlement. There are no threatening letters between lawyers, no affidavits with hurtful accusations, and no stressful court appearances. Better still, by avoiding court, your personal and financial information remains completely private.
Conduct Settlement Meetings
Settlement meetings are structured discussions in which you, your spouse, and your lawyers communicate and negotiate directly with one another. This constructive and forward focused meeting – and the whole Collaborative Process in general – is very much a team-based approach to resolving family law disputes. It is often helpful to include other Collaborative professionals, such as family and financial specialists in this meeting. With your team of collaborative professionals, you and your spouse are encouraged to work through your emotions in order to make comprehensive legal, financial, and child-related agreements.
Engage in Settlement Talks
In the Collaborative Process, an interest-based problem solving approach is encouraged and decision-making is solely up to you and your spouse. Your Collaborative Professionals are there to help you prioritize and communicate your most important goals and keep settlement discussions focused on crafting creative and customized solutions, specific to the problems and concerns of both you and your spouse. Because of this, future conflict resolution can become easier to manage and carried out with integrity and respect.
Arrive at a Resolution
Once an understanding is reached on all of the issues and both you and your spouse are satisfied with the balance that has been struck, a written agreement is drafted by the lawyers. Once signed by you and your spouse, this becomes your Separation Agreement, which is a binding and enforceable contract.
Collaborative Solutions for Separation and Divorce allow you to:
- Resolve disputes respectfully without going to court.
- Make children a priority in co-parenting and child custody.
- Benefit from the guidance and expertise of trained professionals.
- Work creatively and cooperatively towards a mutually acceptable settlement .
Will it Work for me?
Separation and divorce are sensitive personal matters. No single approach is right for everyone. Many couples do find the no-court process known as Collaborative Practice (Collaborative Law/Collaborative Divorce) a welcome alternative to the often destructive, uncomfortable aspects of conventional divorce.
If these values are important to you, Collaborative Practice is likely to be a workable option for you:
- I want to maintain the tone of respect, even when we disagree.
- I want to prioritize the needs of our children.
- My needs and those of my spouse require equal consideration, and I will listen objectively.
- I believe that working creatively and cooperatively solves issues.
- It is important to reach beyond today’s frustration and pain to plan for the future.
- I can behave ethically toward my spouse.
- I choose to maintain control of the separation process with my spouse, and not relegate it to the courts.
Is there a Difference Between “Collaborative Practice” and “Collaborative Family Law”?
The Collaborative “Law” approach was started in 1990 by Stu Webb, a Minneapolis, Minnesota family lawyer, disillusioned with the adversarial court-centred approach to resolving family disputes. Stu announced to his clients and colleagues that he would no longer go to court. He would only represent clients in negotiations aimed solely at creative settlements. If the process could not result in settlement, Stu would refer his clients to litigation counsel and withdraw from the matter. This Collaborative Law process resonated with family lawyers in North America (and now around the globe). During the 1990’s and 2000’s family lawyers in the United States and Canada took extensive training and established local Collaborative groups to be able to offer this approach to their clients.
While the idea began with lawyers, (hence the term Collaborative “Law”), separation and divorce are not just about legal issues. Couples often have to deal with emotional, social, financial, and child care concerns. Collaborative lawyers began to reach out to mental health (family) professionals and financial professionals to meet more of their clients’ needs. The term Collaborative “Practice” has been used to describe this unique interdisciplinary approach. Couples can now add the expertise of mediators, financial specialists, child care specialists, or family therapists to their team.
A Collaborative approach is tailored to the needs of the family and their finances. If issues are primarily legal, the Collaborative professionals on the team might be limited to lawyers. For challenging financial issues, a neutral financial professional can help expedite a resolution. Family professionals can help couples through negotiations by facilitating meetings or working with them individually to improve communications and manage emotions. For children’s issues, a child specialist can provide a voice for the children and assist with a parenting plan. It is important to discuss process options with a Collaborative professional to ensure you have the support and expertise of the professionals you need.