Collaborative Law is a process that helps separating and divorcing couples resolve their disputes in a dignified and respectful manner, in private, without the threat of going to court. Going to court, more often than not, leads to greater uncertainty, unnecessary delay, escalating costs, a further breakdown of relationships and a court-imposed result that satisfies neither party nor their children. Fortunately court is not your only option and the process does not have to be bitter, malicious or degrading. Instead, separation can lead to healthier relationships based on mutual respect and cooperation.
By removing the dispute from the litigious court room setting and treating the process as a way to trouble shoot and problem solve, rather that fight and win, the Collaborative Law process can let you regain control and adjust positively to your new circumstances. Collaborative Family Law helps you protect your children from being exposed to psychologically damaging family conflict, tailor an outcome to your individual circumstances and develop a positive relationship with your former spouse so you can effectively co-parent your children together into the future.
BENEFITS OF COLLABORATIVE FAMILY LAW
Collaborative Family Law focuses on the needs of individuals and their families, rather than merely their legal entitlements.
You and your former spouse, guided by your lawyers, work together to tailor the process to address your specific needs and issues and to find solutions that suit you and your family’s situation.
Negotiations are undertaken from an interest-based perspective seeking results that are mutually beneficial to you and your former spouse and take both of your priorities into account.
Other professionals including accountants, financial advisors, counsellors and children’s experts can be brought into the process to provide specific advice and facilitate a more appropriate outcome than might otherwise be possible using more traditional dispute resolution processes.
The Collaborative Process is conducted in private, with integrity, discretion and transparency.
You and your former spouse agree to work openly and honestly, and allow a free exchange of information.
From the very beginning, a framework is created for effectively communicating the concerns and goals of both you and your former spouse.
You and your lawyer conduct negotiations through confidential, face-to-face meetings with your former spouse and their lawyer in a private setting.
Solicitors’ letters and correspondence is kept to a minimum, as all negotiations take place during the confidential meetings.
Because negotiations take place face-to-face, misunderstandings and miscommunications are reduced and issues tend to be resolved more quickly.
The Collaborative Process produces future focused results that are legally binding.
You and your former spouse, with the assistance of your lawyers, work towards a future-focused, holistic settlement by working to resolve all of your disputes and issues, not just those of a legal nature.
At the end of the process, the agreement reached is formalised into legally recognised and legally binding documents to ensure certainty and security.
You and your partner focus on developing and maintaining the civil relationships that are necessary to co-parent children into the future.
The Collaborative Family Law Process
In the Collaborative Process each person is represented by a Collaborative Family Lawyer whose role it is to advise and guide the client through the process and whose loyalty remains with the client. You and your former spouse, along with your lawyers, agree to work together as a team and to resolve the issues without going to court.
At the beginning of the process you all must sign a Collaborative Law Participation Agreement, setting out ground rules for the Collaborative Process and stipulating that if either party commences court proceedings, both Collaborative Lawyers will be disqualified from representing either client. Therefore, if you and your former spouse cannot come to an agreement through the Collaborative Law process, both lawyers must cease to act on your behalf. Both you and your former spouse must then retain new lawyers to represent you in Court. With the threat of Court proceedings removed, you can focus on resolution as opposed to strategy planning.
The next step is to meet with your former spouse and their lawyer face-to-face in private four-way meetings. Four-way meetings often take place away from the lawyers’ offices so that the atmosphere is less formal and more relaxed. During each meeting minutes are kept, an agenda is set, future steps are mapped out and any “homework” (for example, gathering documents for the next meeting) is arranged. Together, you decide the timeframe for future meetings so that they are spaced and set at a pace both you and your spouse are comfortable with.
Your lawyer is there for you throughout the meetings to provide support, legal advice and guidance. Because the four-way meetings are transparent and there is expected to be an honest and open free-flow of information, most of the “work”, including the lawyers providing their clients with legal advice, takes place during the four-way meetings. The clients are in control of the process and do most of the talking. You will be assisted in communicating with each other in a non-confrontational way and your lawyers are there to keep the process focused and remind you to direct negotiations to your needs, not feelings of entitlement, and to work towards a balanced solution that is acceptable to all.
Once an agreement has been reached which satisfies the needs of you and your former spouse, as well as your families, your lawyers work together to draft the agreement into legally binding documents such as Consent Orders or Binding Financial Agreements.