The practice of `Collaborative Law’ offers enormous potential for the community, and particularly where family breakdown and the needs of children are involved.
The concept originated in the US in the early 1990s and involves separating couples and their lawyers making a commitment to attempt, in good faith and with a spirit of full disclosure and honesty, to reach a mutually acceptable settlement without going to Court, and by cooperatively working to address everyone’s legal, financial and emotional needs.
If agreement is not reached, and the parties must turn to the Court, then each respective lawyer is obliged to withdraw from any further involvement.
There are significant advantages to the approach:
- The process is very interest driven, rather than focussed on tactics and one party `winning’
- The focus is on identifying what each party (and their children) require to move forward positively, and reaching agreement about how best to accommodate those needs
- The process encourages open, non-confrontational communication in a round table conference format, not angry inflammatory correspondence
- It avoids Court, and the significant cost, delay and hostility that often results from going to Court
- It avoids handing control over your life and your children to a third party (Judge) whom has no insight into your needs or experience
- Children’s needs are given priority
- The parties can embrace creative solutions suited to their own family’s needs
- Other professionals such as counsellors, accountants and financial advisers who are trained in Collaborative practice routinely engage with the parties and their lawyers to explore solutions
The process is not suited to matters where there are any allegations of risk or violence to a party or the children, where a party is simply wanting revenge against a former partner, or if a party wishes to keep secrets.
Should you be in the midst of separation, I encourage you to seek out a trained local collaborative lawyer and ask them at the outset of your dispute whether your situation would be assisted by adopting the collaborative approach.