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.