What is collaborative family law?
Collaborative family law involves resolving family law conflicts with the support of each party’s collaboratively-trained lawyer. Collaborative family law is a cooperative, non-adversarial approach. This process is different from a traditional family law litigation process in that both parties and their lawyers sign an agreement at the beginning of the collaborative process agreeing that they will negotiate issues respectfully and not threaten the other party with litigation. Going to court is off the table in a collaborative model and parties sign a formal participation agreement confirming this commitment. In addition, if the conflict does eventually proceed to litigation, both parties must get new lawyers.
Collaborative family law differs from family law mediation in that collaborative lawyers proactively guide and counsel the parties toward an agreement, while a mediator does not offer any legal advice. A successful collaborative family law process will resource the parties with skills on how to engage in problem-solving discussions, will enable the parties to come to mutually-acceptable solutions to fit their situation, and will ideally result in the signing of a separation agreement.
Is collaborative family law right for you?
Collaborative family law has many advantages, including that it may be less costly, it is non-adversarial, you receive guidance from a trained collaborative lawyer, you can learn to effectively resolve conflict, and it can be faster than going to court. Where children and co-parenting issues are involved, the collaborative process may be beneficial in fostering healthier co-parenting relationships. The following are some important points you should consider when deciding whether the collaborative process is right for you:
- The collaborative process is voluntary.
- The collaborative process may not be appropriate in some situations, such as when there is a history of family violence (violence against women and children).
- Parties need to be willing to learn how to have effective problem-solving discussions.
- Parties need to be willing to be honest and completely disclose all financial information.
- Each party will initially meet alone with their own lawyer to discuss goals and legal rights.
- The parties and their lawyers sign an agreement stating they agree to settle all issues without going to court.
- There will be a series of settlement meetings attended by the parties and their lawyers.
- The collaborative process may include the services of other professionals such as divorce coaches, financial experts, and child specialists.
- Both lawyers should be trained in the collaborative law process.
How can Suleman Family Law help with your collaborative process?
If the collaborative family law process seems like a good fit for you and your ex-partner, our experienced collaborative lawyer Zara Suleman would be happy to help you. Please visit our Getting Started page to learn about the first steps for any of our new clients. Here’s what you need to know specifically about our collaborative process:
- Before we start the collaborative process, Zara will meet with you to make sure collaborative law is the right process for your situation. (If it’s not, we will advise you what we think would be a better approach for you.) As family law lawyers we have an obligation to screen for family violence issues.
- If collaborative law remains the appropriate process, we will work with you to navigate the settlement process respectfully and honestly.
- Both parties need to provide full disclosure of all their financial information, including all assets and liabilities. Some examples are annual income, RRSP savings, bank savings, business investments, mortgage, personal loans, and assets such as cars, furniture, etc.
Please contact Suleman Family Law for more information or to schedule an appointment.
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