The Collaborative Process is also known as “Collaborative Family Law”, “Collaborative Practice” or “Collaborative Divorce”.
What Is It?
The Collaborative Process is a method whereby separating couples, with the support of a professional team, work together to negotiate a Separation Agreement and plan for their family’s future.
The Collaborative Process provides a safe and supportive environment where you and your ex-partner/spouse work together with your lawyers in a series of joint meetings (“team meetings”) to resolve your legal issues without court intervention.
To help you stay focused, efficient and productive in team meetings, you are assisted by an interdisciplinary professional team. Collaborative professionals are trained to keep separation negotiations on track and focused on what really matters to each of you. You negotiate your separation agreement with real-time legal advice.
The Collaborative Process avoids the adversarial nature of the litigation process by giving control to you instead of a judge.
Why Choose It?
It’s more amicable, less expensive and faster than the adversarial court system. It’s efficient, solution-focused and can be customized to your needs.
Top reasons to choose the Collaborative Process:
When you choose to work collaboratively, you choose NOT to be adversarial. You look for ways to divide the pie for everyone’s benefit, and you work to find solutions that help meet everyone’s needs as best as possible.
The relationship with your ex may last forever, especially if you have children. It doesn’t end with signing a Separation Agreement.
The Collaborative Process helps you achieve an effective resolution of the issues arising from your separation and increases long-term satisfaction with your Separation Agreement. This is invaluable, especially when you may need to work together to address issues in the future.
You Have a Support Team
It can be difficult to keep matters moving productively while understanding all the choices available. You want to bring your best self to the negotiations. Support from your multidisciplinary team helps you stay focused and effective in the discussions.
Feel the Power
The Collaborative Process empowers you and your spouse to reach your own solutions in talks that are family-centered and interest-based. You, the client, are in the driver’s seat with the support of your collaborative team.
“The Sticky Table”
Both spouses and their lawyers sign an agreement committing to the Collaborative Process. Although there is always the option of withdrawing and bringing your matter to court to have a judge decide, there are incentives to staying in the process.
Timing and Cost
Family court cases can cost tens of thousands of dollars and take two to five years to make their way through the court system. The Collaborative Process usually leads to resolution in 3 to 4 team meetings (with some exceptions). The process is flexible. It allows couples to move at a comfortable pace and spend their time and money on what is important to them.
A Customized Process and Result
People assume that judges can determine and impose “fair” outcomes. Unfortunately, this is not how our court system works. Judges are limited by legislation and only have authority to make certain orders prescribed by law. Judges cannot do “creative problem-solving” or impose “common sense” solutions.
The Collaborative Process allows you and your spouse to be more creative and customize the process and solutions to suit your needs. People who use the Collaborative Process tend to be more satisfied with the result than people who resort to the court process because they have crafted solutions with reference to what matters to them.
Did you know that in most family law cases the separating couple and their lawyers never meet for real-time settlement discussions unless there is a court date (usually scheduled many weeks or months away)?
The Collaborative Process is premised on having real-time, live conversations with your professional team right there with you. You don’t engage in inefficient negotiations and lawyer’s letters or with each “side” reproducing the same work and calculations in their own silos.
In the Collaborative Process, professionals coordinate to avoid duplication of work. They create a safe and productive space to allow real-time negotiation simultaneously with legal advice.
Of course, there are also time and cost savings in the Collaborative Process. You, your spouse, and your collaborative professionals will focus on finding solutions rather than attacking, defending and blaming.
Court records in family matters are available to the public. These include your personal financial information as well as intimate details about your children and your private life. By choosing the Collaborative Process and committing to keep your concerns out of court, your private life remains private.
How Does It Work?
These are the basic steps in the Collaborative Process:
1. Build and meet with your team. 2. Set goals. 3. Gather information. 4. Generate options. 5. Evaluate and select best options for your family. 6. Finalize your Separation Agreement.
Once you have chosen the Collaborative Process, these are the basic steps you will follow. Most of the work will happen in a series of meeting with your spouse and your professional team.
1. Choose Collaborative and Build Your Team!
You and your spouse choose and agree to use the Collaborative Process. This often starts with one or both of you discussing your process options with a collaborative professional – this could be a Collaborative Lawyer, a Collaborative Family Professional or a Collaborative Financial Professional. From there you build the rest of your team. The team members arrange a first meeting where you and your spouse will sign a contract called a “Collaborative Participation Agreement”. Now your Collaborative Process has officially started!
2. Set Goals
Couples who use the Collaborative Process are generally very satisfied as they move into the next phase of their lives. The process works because it begins with determining what really matters to you. The team helps you and your spouse uncover and articulate your underlying goals. While the law is important (and this is why lawyers are involved), most people have concerns that go beyond what the law can address. Where do you want to be in 2 years, or in 10 years? What type of relationship do you want to have with your children and / or with your ex-spouse? What are your career goals or retirement plans? What are your hopes for your family pet? Do you want to continue to live in the same community? These questions might matter deeply to you, but may not be legally “relevant”. In the Collaborative Process there is room to discuss all of these issues. Your individual and common goals will establish the values and benchmarks for planning the next chapter of your family’s journey.
3. Gather Information
You and your spouse need a solid understanding of the family’s financial realities as well as having sound legal advice before you can make decisions. The professional team will support you to put all the relevant information on the table in a transparent manner and to ensure that you and your spouse have everything you need to make informed decisions. The lawyers will explain and educate you about the legal implications for your family. You may also look at household budgets and examine other financial issues like qualifying for a new mortgage or valuing family assets. The professional team keeps the process on track by helping you determine what information you need and how you will get it, so you can move efficiently through the process.
4. Generate Options
Together, with the help of the professional team, you and your spouse brainstorm solutions to address your goals. At this stage in the process, no idea is a “bad” idea – we can be creative and think outside the box. If the legal framework doesn’t provide the best solution for your family, you can safely come up with creative or even unorthodox options. Ultimately, an agreement you both craft together will be one that will endure. The best ideas come from non-judgmental brainstorming allowing you to customize solutions to your family’s needs.
5. Evaluate and Select Best Options for Your Family
With the support of your professional team, you and your spouse will determine which options best address the goals that you each articulated at the outset of the process. Will an option support you in your goal of making a career change? Will an option allow both of you to afford a home in the children’s school area? It is much easier to agree on a solution if you first identify and understand your goals, and are not just trying to “win” or get the bigger piece of the pie. Your professional team will help you weigh the pros and cons and prompt you to think about any legal, financial or interpersonal implications you might not have thought of, to ensure that options you choose are lasting and workable.
6. Finalize Your Separation Agreement
Once you have selected the best options for resolution and have agreed on how to move forward, your lawyers will draft the Separation Agreement. Before you sign, you will have an opportunity to get all your questions answered. Chances are, however, that because you and your lawyer were in the room when the solutions were determined, there won’t be any surprises in the Separation Agreement.
The best way to get started is to contact one of the collaborative professionals from our roster. (Some of our professionals also do other work, so be sure to tell them you are calling because you want a Collaborative Process!)