Collaborative Family Law

Finalising a divorce or ending a de facto relationship can end up being a messy process in a drawn out court case. However, they don't have to be.

Collaborative Family Law is a good path to undertake to ensure your divorce or separation is finalised without having to go to court.

The approach of Collaborative Family Law is to place importance on the aspects of the relationship that matters to you, such as your children’s care or superannuation. An outcome is reached in an amicable way that is beneficial to all parties involved and doesn’t rely on what the law interprets as priorities.

This approach to the ending of a relationship is focused on creating a resolution in a respectful, open and transparent way. It provides a starting point for where joint parenting and a working relationship can be developed.

The focus of Collaborative Family Law

The following points should be priorities for all parties involved in the divorce or separation if they want to consider Collaborative Family Law:

  • All parties want a dignified resolution aimed at resolving the conflict at hand.
  • Dealing with the emotional aspects of the divorce is just as important as the legal considerations.
  • Both parties wish to save on the emotional and financial drain that is part of traditional litigation.
  • There is a need to have control over the division of assets and arrangements regarding childcare, with advice and help provided by professionals.
  • All parties want the input of children to help guide their choices, but not make them part of the conflict.
  • All parties want the dispute and its resolution to remain confidential.

Everyone involved needs the assistance of a lawyer to help clarify and advise on legal rights and to help with negotiations.

How does the process work?

If the above points sound agreeable to all parties involved, the first step would be to consult and engage the services of lawyers who practice Collaborative Family Law.

Then, both parties involved will be asked to sign an agreement stating that they will not begin court proceedings, and if they do so, they will not be represented by the specific collaborative family lawyer(s) they engaged before commencing proceedings.

The parties, their lawyers, and when required neutral experts, must engage in open, honest and transparent problem-solving at meetings. All of the negotiations are conducted in meetings, the process usually takes between four to seven meetings to reach an agreeable conclusion.

The agenda for each meeting is pre-determined by the parties and their lawyers. Between meetings, the parties, their lawyers and any other required professionals work together to ensure that all of the information relevant to the agenda is available in advance of the meeting. The lawyers also work with their respective clients to prepare them for each meeting and debrief them afterwards. Similarly, the lawyers consult with each other before the meeting and debrief afterwards.

You can also expect financial planners and phycologists to serve at the proceedings to ensure that the best interests of all parties are served.

Is Collaborative Family Law right for me?

We can advise you in relation to whether your situation is suited to the collaborative approach. It is suitable for most clients, but an assessment has to be made by an experienced collaborative family lawyer. Generally, the process is not suited to clients with severe mental health issues or in situations involving domestic violence. If it becomes clear during the initial interview that the client, or their former partner, is unsuited to the collaborative process, then our lawyers may suggest other more suitable forms of dispute resolution.

The collaborative approach may not work if:

  • There are any concerns about being in the same room as the former partner, or negotiating with them;
  • The level of trust between the parties is so diminished that it would be better to utilise court processes for discovery and production of documents;
  • The lack of trust cannot be addressed;
  • Either party cannot demonstrate empathy for their former partner;
  • Either party cannot articulate what is important to them, and what they want to achieve; and
  • Either party has drug/alcohol dependency or other addictive behaviours.

If you want to find out more about Collaborative Family Law, and whether it can be the right solution to your family dispute, don’t hesitate to contact the team at Family Legal today.

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