What is Collaborative Law?

Collaborative law is a relatively new method of resolving your family law dispute.

As the word “collaborative” suggests, this method of resolution involves the parties collaborating with their lawyers and each other (getting together) to work on a Family Law outcome that meets each of their Family Law goals.

Importantly, the Collaborative process is not an adversarial (us against them) process. It is not about a battle between a husband and wife, or two same-sex partners.

It is about working together for a common, mutually agreeable outcome.

Conversely, if you decide to resolve your matter by proceeding to Court, that usually descends to a “partner versus partner” fight. For the benefit of your emotional health, and your family, the Collaborative process may be a much better option.

Who should consider this approach?

The collaborative law method would usually suit parties who are amicable and committed to work together for a suitable outcome for their family and most importantly their children following separation.

The Collaborative law process does not always work effectively in cases where there has been a high level of family violence and/or a high level of conflict between the parties. The process usually works best when the parties can effectively communicate and work together for a mutual outcome for themselves and their family.

In cases where parties can be “child focused” and are able to communicate, the Collaborative process works very effectively and efficiently. At Tonkin Legal, we will discuss whether this is the right approach for you during your first meeting with our family law team.

How does the collaborative law process work?

          1. Chose a lawyer with collaborative law training

To get started, both parties need to engage a lawyer who has had the appropriate Collaborative law training (but who work at different law firms). At Tonkin Legal, Shane Williams, and St.John Heath of our office are both collaboratively trained lawyers. We can recommend other collaboratively trained lawyers for your ex-partner if need be.

          2. Hold Four Way Meetings

The parties meet in what is referred to as “four-way meetings” i.e. you, your ex-partner and your solicitors. The meetings would usually rotate between each solicitor’s office.

During the four-way meetings, the parties negotiate regarding issues that need to be dealt with on an interim basis - for example, who is to reside in the former matrimonial home pending a final resolution, what arrangements are to be made for the children, what interim financial arrangements need to be put into place.

There is usually a series of four-way meetings which hopefully will lead to a final resolution regarding Property and Parenting matters.

The Collaborative process also has the capacity to be multidisciplinary – bringing in other experts as needed.

For example, if there are complex issues relating to children, you can invite a child psychologist to attend the meetings between the parties. Further if there is a financial issue that requires specific expertise, a financial planner or an accountant can be invited to the meetings to assist.

Other requirements

Before entering the first four-way meeting, the parties will need to sign a Contract stating amongst other things that:

  1. they will negotiate in good faith
  2. they will listen to and not speak over the other party
  3. at all times they will act in a courteous manner
  4. in the event the parties are unable to resolve the dispute by way of the Collaborative process and the matter needs to proceed to Court, the parties will need to engage separate lawyers and will disengage their Collaborative lawyers.

The Collaborative process also requires that all parties communicate openly between the meetings. All correspondence between the solicitors and the parties is sent to all four parties, keeping everyone in the communication loop.

When should I consider using the Collaborative law process?

The Collaborative process should be considered by all parties who are in the early stages of negotiating separation. It is another non-court-based method of getting an agreement between you and your former partner that may best suit your family.

Benefits of this approach

The Collaborative process can still be an emotional, and demanding experience. It is not always easy to discuss financial matters and parenting matters, in the wake of an unfortunate separation.

However, the process allows the parties to negotiate without involving Court (and the exorbitant costs that go with the Court process) in a mature and civil way.

Of the Collaborative matters I have successfully completed, the parties have been able to maintain some form of relationship with their former partner, which greatly benefits their children.

The costs have been significantly less than if the matter proceeded through the court. Further, the matters were resolved in a timely fashion, unlike the significant delays that confront parties in the Court.

If you are in the process of separating from your partner and would like to consider adopting the collaborative law process to negotiate your parenting and property arrangements, then book an appointment with us today.