Collaborative Law

The Collaborative Law Model: collaborative Law is a way of resolving disputes, following family breakdown, without court involvement or the threat of court, and without the people involved and their lawyers fighting against each other.

It is designed for people who are committed to resolving their issues without going to court; people who want to make their own decisions about the future of their family; who want to ensure that they continue to maintain a relationship for the benefit of their children, extended family, and society as a whole, even if they are no longer partners.

The process involves a series of informal discussions and joint meetings for the purpose of settling all issues. The meetings are known as Team Meetings, as they involve the couple, their collaborative lawyers and often a divorce coach to help with effective communication. Sometimes, a meeting will include a neutral financial professional.

Each party, their lawyers and if a divorce coaches and/or a  financial professional is involved, need to sign an agreement committing themselves to the collaborative process, and agreeing that they will not go to court and will not threaten to go to court. If the collaborative process breaks down, the two collaborative lawyers will no longer be the lawyers for the parties, and the parties will then have to hire trial lawyers to take the dispute to court.

If the discussions come to a halt because an issue or issues cannot be resolved, mediation and arbitration under the new Family Law Act will be available.

Advantages:

  • Settlement is reached more quickly than through the traditional legal process and less costly- both financially and emotionally.
  • You will have the support, protection, and guidance of trained professionals, all of whom are committed to the collaborative process. This includes a family lawyer and other experts such as financial experts and mental health professionals, called divorce coaches to help you manage the emotions and communicate effectively.

In Kelowna we are fortunate to have a collaborative practice group called the Okanagan Collaborative Family Law Group. Our group includes lawyers, divorce coaches, a child specialist and financial professionals.

Why Choose Collaborative Law?

  • You can focus on what is important to you, your priorities, and your hopes for the future that you want to make for yourself and your family.
  • If there are children, they can benefit as the process will focus on the children first. You can achieve a more flexible and creative solution adapted to your children’s needs.
  • The process is straightforward and eliminates the opportunity for misunderstanding and for one party to take advantage of the other.

The goal is to enhance communication through the process and to lay the foundation for a healthy relationship afterwards. Where there are children, it can provide a powerful message, as the children will see their parents resolving their differences constructively, without fighting.

  • The process is confidential.
  • The process minimizes the stress that is inevitable when you need to make clear decisions following the break-up of your relationship.
  • The process is very much a future -focused process and the aim is that you work as part of a team with your partner rather than against your partner. In contrast, the court process can become a battleground.
  • You have the help of divorce coaches or mental health professionals to work to build communication and problem solving skills for you that you can use not just in the present but throughout the span of the family’s development. They are part of the team whose purpose is to achieve positive, creative solutions, tailored to the specific family in its new form. The divorce coaches are there to help affirm identity, history, and connection for the family and strive to best meet future needs so families aren’t in transition.

How Does the Collaborative Law Model Differ From the Traditional Court Route?

It will ensure that you and your spouse or partner have a voice and are in control of the process. You are in control of the result and you make the result. If the dispute goes to court, the decisions about you and your family are made by a stranger; a judge, who hears only what he is told or what he or she hears in evidence. Their decision is based on a fraction of the information that he or she is told or hears and an assessment of the credibility of the witnesses. A judge’s decision can never be absolutely predicted.

  • By avoiding court, you will avoid the tremendous stress of having to go into court, give evidence and be subject to cross-examination in open court, and hear the most intimate parts of your life discussed openly.
  • You will benefit from the strength of two collaborative lawyers working together, often with mental health professionals, rather than in opposition to one another.
  • The process is confidential and allows you to be totally open and discuss whatever needs to be discussed without fear of repercussions.
  • In court it’s about a winner and a loser; with the Collaborative Law model, it’s about working as a team to help you and your spouse/partner work towards common goals

Compared with the traditional court process, it can provide better value for your money, particularly if long -term solutions are achieved. No guarantee can be given that either process will definitely work. Nevertheless, with an open and transparent approach and a genuine desire to achieve what is best for both parties, not a “what’s in it for me” attitude, lasting solutions can be found, with significantly less financial and emotional costs to the family. Summary: The Collaborative Process focuses on what your true interests, goals and priorities may be, so you can discuss them and use them for the basis of your settlement. It allows you and your former partner to honour each of your goals, interests, and priorities.