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Collaborative Family Law

Collaborative Family Law (CFL) is a process whereby the parties, with the assistance of specially trained counsel, attempt to balance their interests in a co-operative manner with minimal conflict.
Traditional adversarial process
The essential difference between Collaborative Family Law and the traditional model is that our existing legal system is based on an adversarial process.

In the traditional process, you hire a lawyer for the purpose of getting the best possible deal available. What happens to the other side is irrelevant. If you can’t get a deal to your liking, you instruct your lawyer to go before a judge and present the very best case he or she can to persuade the judge to give you as much as is possible. As such, the legal system itself can be used as a weapon to beat your former spouse into a settlement or judgement. Conversely, initiating that process invites the weapon to be used against you.

When a relationship is terminated in such an adversarial way, it can make future communications impossible or, at best, extremely difficult, particularly between parents regarding their children.
Goals of CFL
Collaborative Family Law is exactly the opposite of the traditional process and produces a more positive and constructive outcome by seeking to balance the interests of the parties.

The goal is to reallocate the financial resources of the family and to restructure the parenting obligations and responsibilities of the parties in a balanced, respectful and non-confrontational context.
The Process
The process of CFL is coordinated by two very experienced family law lawyers acting for each of the parties. They have been trained in collaborative law and are resolution-oriented. Many of them are practising mediators and use this as another tool to assist in the resolution of the parties’ affairs.

Collaborative law is a very positive experience. The entire process is transparent. Full and comprehensive disclosure is shared between the parties and their counsel.

Other professionals such as financial planners, accountants, appraisers, family counsellors, life coaches and parenting coordinators, who are also trained in CFL methodology, can be brought in to assist in the resolution process as necessary.

The parties agree at the outset to use their best efforts to maintain a respectful and cooperative approach and will be gently reminded by their counsel when they stray from that path.

Most of the conferences are conducted in a round-table format with the parties and their counsel. Consequently your counsel is directly involved in discussions with your spouse and his or her counsel. This affords your lawyer a unique opportunity, unavailable in any other resolution process, to develop a comprehensive understanding of both parties’ positions which opens up further opportunities for dialogue and settlement.
The Cost
Collaborative Family Law is often more expensive than mediation because you are dealing with two lawyers instead of one, but most of the times it is much less expensive than a standard formal negotiation. Unless the process breaks down, it is always significantly less expensive than litigation.

It is an ideal process to utilize when the either of the parties does not have a comfortable understanding of the financial affairs of the family, there are issues relating to providing financially for the children or one of the spouses, or there are complicated financial matters to resolve.

CFL tends to be more satisfying for all the parties involved because the parties themselves have the opportunity to be intimately involved in the resolution process. They don’t feel like they are being pushed or pulled in a particular direction; they are hands-on in creating the resolution.

In our experience when the parties are involved in coming to their own agreement, that agreement will stand the test of time and be flexible enough to deal with unanticipated changes. If circumstances change, which is inevitable where there are children involved, the parties will have had the experience of positive negotiation and will have acquired the tools to be able to continue to do so.

For more information on Collaborative Family Law and a list of the counsel available locally to provide this service, please visit:

www.collaborative-law.ca.