Why I chose to practice Collaborative Family Law

My experience with the usual practice of Family law has been marred with frustration. The cost to clients as well as the uncertainty of the outcome and the detrimental effect that disputed divorces has on children was disheartening for me as well as the clients that I was serving.

I was thus adamant that I would practice Family Law in a way that was respectful to all the parties concerned.

I believe that one’s self esteem should never be compromised nor taken away.

The major advantage to the Collaborative Family Law approach is clear. Instead of having to live with decisions made by a Judge, the parties work with their lawyers to make their own decisions based on their needs and those of their children. Everyone has the right to skilled, knowledgeable and caring work from their lawyer, and that is my goal, with close attention paid to integrity, respect and self esteem.

I am particularly enthusiastic about the process of Collaborative Family Law as it is a dignified and co-operative approach aimed at resolving the issues arising from a separation without going to court.

What is Collaborative Family Law

  • Collaborative Family Law is a dignified, co-operative approach to resolving the issues arising from a separation without going to court.
  • Both separated spouses retain separate lawyers who are specially trained to help them settle their issues in a controlled, safe and respectful setting.

How does it work?

  • Both lawyers and clients sign a participation agreement that outlines their respective responsibilities.
  • Most significant from the lawyers’ perspective is that, if the process does not lead to a resolution, they cannot represent their clients in any future court proceedings.
  • This restriction on the lawyers allows them to direct their energy effectively on achieving resolution.
  • Everyone is focused on creating a fair and long-lasting agreement.

The process

  • The process consists of a series of “four-way meetings” in which the participants work together to define the issues and understand each other’s perspective, all in an effort to achieve resolution in a civilized and respectful way.
  • An agenda is set for each meeting in advance, so that everyone is clear on what issues will be discussed during any given meeting.
  • The lawyers’ role is to assist, while at the same time, to ensure that their client understands his or her entitlements and obligations.

Only collaborative family law addresses the whole picture that is involved in divorce. It recognizes that divorce is more than a legal procedure or event. It is also a time of intense distress and proves to be challenging for the parties and particularly for the children. Many financial issues are involved, and often, they are complex. Because it does address the whole picture, the collaborative-law process helps parties achieve a more complete, enriching, and long-term resolution.

What are the differences between litigation, mediation, and collaborative divorce?

The traditional litigation model:

  • Clients talk with their lawyers, and in turn the lawyers discuss positions with each other.
  • Communications in this model are restricted and designed to empower the lawyers.
  • If the lawyers are unsuccessful in bringing about a solution, the decision-making authority is turned over to a judge who will know little about you and your situation other than a quick snapshot view.
  • This model is antiquated and burdened with heavily congested calendars and closings of courtrooms due to budgetary consideration.

The mediation model:

  • Has a number of advantages over the litigation model;
  • however, the dialogue is once again restricted.
  • Divorcing parties talk with a mediator and then may choose to consult separately with a lawyer who was not part of the original dialogue that led to issue resolution.
  • There is a potential for breakdown at this point due to the lack of an in-depth understanding of the entire process on the part of the parties respective lawyers.

What about costs?

If you must divorce, what would it be worth to you to have a superior resolution process that is fair and rewarding? Experience shows that collaborative family law cases are substantially less expensive than cases that are taken to court. At the same time, collaborative divorce is almost always more satisfactory and productive for the participants.

Costs will vary depending upon the difficulty of the matter, but one thing is certain: no funds will be spent on waging war. In collaborative family law, parties are assured of getting the assistance they need to succeed, while avoiding costs associated with non-productive fighting. The dollars spent on the collaborative process are a wise investment in a better future for the parties and for their children.

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Related Links

The International Academy of Collaborative Professionals
Collaborative Practice Toronto
York Collaborative Practice
Divorce Magazine
Family Mediation Canada
Ontario Statutes and Regulations
Child Support Guidelines
Spousal Support Advisory Guidelines
What You Should Know about Family Law in Ontario
Divorce Coaching
Sweet Divorce
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