Collaborative Law

Collaborative Law is an out of court settlement process where parties to a family law dispute and their lawyers try to reach an agreement together about the issues in dispute. Collaborative dispute resolution differs from other dispute resolution models because the parties and their lawyers all agree and sign a binding contract to resolve the matter using a form of inclusive negotiation.

How does the collaborative law process work?

Both parties must engage a lawyer (from different law firms), who provides collaborative law services.

The process typically involves "five-way meetings" with the parties:

  1. each party and their respective lawyer;
  2. other professionals such as a communication coach;
  3. neutral financial specialists;
  4. child specialists; and/or
  5. other experts.

The parties and the experts then meet together to discuss and reach agreement about the steps that need to be taken to resolve the issues in dispute. In this way, parties "collaborate" to resolve the dispute.

If the dispute cannot be resolved entirely through the collaborative law process, the lawyers acting for each party must withdraw and the parties must engage new lawyers to represent them in litigation.

This aspect of collaborative law means that all parties, including the lawyers involved, are genuinely committed to a negotiated outcome.

The collaborative model is well suited to some family law matters, but not all. You should discuss with us, if it can work for your situation.

What types of matters can be negotiated using the collaborative law process?

The following areas of family law are all feasible for collaborative law:

The important issue is the willingness of parties to engage in open and frank dialogue.

What are the benefits of a collaborative law approach?

Where the parties are able to be open and frank with each other, then a settlement on agreed terms is more likely and may happen sooner than through court process or other alternative dispute mechanisms.

Savings can be made if agreement can be reached although there will be additional expenses if experts are needed for better communication purposes or for financial modelling or dealing with special children's needs.

The drawback of this approach though is the cost and delay if, having engaged in the process, an agreement cannot be reached. In that scenario, each party then needs to engage new lawyers to represent them.

Are the decisions reached enforceable?

Collaborative law does not create enforceable outcomes but does direct the parties to a process of documenting their agreed outcome by way of consent orders or a binding financial agreement.

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