Collaborative Family Law

Part 1 – Introduction

Spousal TrustThis is the first in a series of articles that will address the topic of Collaborative Family Law. We will be discussing the concept, the process and the cost in the series’ three parts, respectively.

Let’s begin.

What is the Collaborative Law Process?

Collaborative family law is a new approach that focuses on reducing the level of conflict in which families all too often find themselves. It combines negotiation and mediation tools to shift the tone from a struggle the parties are locked into, and create an environment where productive discussions can work on multiple levels.

The procedures are aimed at building trust and moving parties to discussions on the substance at the heart of issues. A critical part for achieving this is the agreed elimination of all threatening tactics.

The process has been around for some time now but the frequency of its use is not as widespread, despite its clear benefits. Like mediation, it is considered a form of alternative dispute resolution.

However, there is every reason why anyone involved in a family dispute should look into it for resolving the conflict rather than first trying the more traditional court process. Not least of those reasons being the benefits it brings to everyone’s mental health and your own bottom line.

Collaborative law takes a holistic approach towards the conflict.

Rather than starting from rigid legal positions that are then reformulated numerous times in the course of litigation, the collaborative approach allows clients to express their interests, goals and objectives; what they ideally want to see as their end game. This then becomes the focal point around which discussions and negotiations develop.

The process remains both open minded and robust enough to cover all topics that arise in a family conflict. This includes dealing with difficult emotional aspects which frequently flare up and can, if left unattended or ignored, impede moving to a final solution.

Sessions are confidential and parties can feel comfortable work out novel solutions that would not be considered in a traditional court setting. Like mediation, the process is flexible in dealing with cultural differences and divergent personality types.

Essentially the collaborative approach combines the advantages of mediation with having constant substantive legal, financial and mental health counsel available at all time from the beginning of the process to its conclusion.

How does the collaborative process differ from the traditional court driven one?

The client is at the centre of the process.

While this might sound obvious, it really isn’t. The traditional court driven process starts by identifying what is attainable in light of legal strengths and weakness. The collaborative approach on the other hand focuses on identifying client interests, goals and objectives. The legal aspect is only one piece in the engine, not the primary one and certainly not the sole. The interests, goals and objectives mark the boundaries in which the lawyers and other professionals involved will work.

How do these direct the lawyers?

First of all, since the environment is based on establishing trust, the lawyers are not competing with each other with an eye on winning an advantage for their client. The lawyers work closely in concert to move the dispute towards settlement. Both are aware and respectful of the other side’s goals and interests focusing on finding the point both sides can consolidate around.

Although each lawyers share a close working relation with each other, they continue to represent their individual client’s interests and provide legal advice as in a non-collaborative setting. The main difference being that the environment eliminates the source of stress and anxiety in addition to removing the cloud of explicit or veiled threats. When flare-ups happen, the professionals involved are trained in dealing with them so the process does not derail.

If you find this information useful, stay with us for the next part of this series where we’ll be going over the process in detail, explaining just how it works.

Article written by Yoel Lichtblau Hon. B.A., J.D., M.B.A.

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