What is Collaborative Divorce and is it right for you?

By Melissa Salfi, Vancouver Collaborative Divorce Lawyer, Family Lawyer, Fertility Lawyer

Collaborative Divorce in Vancouver, also known as Collaborative Practice or Collaborative Law, is a voluntary and private dispute resolution process in which the parties commit to settling their matter outside of Court. Collaborative Law recognizes that divorce is not just a legal process and tackles it holistically by involving mental health and financial professionals.

In Collaborative Divorce, each party retains a collaborative lawyer who has special training in the field, including in interest-based negotiation and mediation. Together, the parties sign a Participation Agreement in which they agree to enter the collaborative process. This agreement contains an important “disqualification clause” which states that the family lawyers must withdraw from representation if either party commences a contested court proceeding. This agreement allows the parties to collaborate in a more open and trusting manner without the looming threat of litigation including the typical threats regarding family court action exchanged in correspondence between counsel. While the parties would be required to retain new counsel in the event that one of them commenced an adversarial process, this is rare as approximately 92-95% of all collaborative divorce matters result in a resolution.

Collaborative Family Law is a team-based approach in which the parties and their lawyers work together with any experts they decide to engage towards resolving the parties’ issues. It is a team based approach. This primarily occurs through a series of 4-way and sometimes 5-way meetings. It is also an interdisciplinary approach that allows the parties to draw on the expertise and resources of other professionals including financial specialists, mental health professionals (“divorce coaches”), and child specialists.

The parties have the option of retaining a neutral coach or more commonly their own Divorce Coach. Divorce coaches are mental health professional who can assist the parties with managing the emotional process of separation, any increased level of stress and conflict, and the transitions involved for the family. Divorce Coaches are also experienced at helping parties develop a parenting plan and effective co-parenting and communication strategies.

When there are complex property issues involved, the parties often benefit from engaging a Financial Specialist who serves as a neutral expert. The financial specialist can help the parties identify and gather the necessary documentation of family property, assist with financial planning including creating and evaluating financial options after separation and divorce to address both the parties’ individual needs and goals and the financial needs of the family as a whole.

In some cases, the parties decide to retain a Child Specialist to give the child a voice in the process, so the parties can better understand the child’s experience of separation and divorce. The Child Specialist can help the parents create a workable plan to meet the child’s individual needs and interests.

Collaborative Law is widely considered to be the most client-centred approach to divorce as it allows the clients to be at the centre of the process in making decisions about their separation and what their future is going to look like. It gives the clients much more control over the outcome than in Court or Arbitration where an adjudicator will make a final decision based on the often limited information they are provided with and their own perception of the evidence.

Unlike family court, where there is a limited range of options that can be imposed, the Collaborative process welcomes creative solutions that can be customized to the unique needs of the family at hand. The process offers the parties the opportunity to achieve more holistic resolutions that account for not only the legal issues involved, but also the emotional, financial, and child-related considerations. It is also in most cases much more cost effective than family law litigation and creates more durable settlements.

If you would like to learn more about Collaborative Divorce and whether it is right for you, the collaborative divorce lawyers at Crossroads Law would be happy to walk you through the process. Crossroads Law provides collaborative divorce options for people in British Columbia and Alberta. For a FREE consultation please contact us at the information below.