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 »  Home  »  Business & Finance  »  Legal Issues  »  Collaborative Family Law An Emerging Option for Separation & Divorce
Collaborative Family Law An Emerging Option for Separation & Divorce
By Meredith Cox | Published  07/4/2006 | Legal Issues | Rating:
Meredith Cox
Meredith Cox is a senior associate in the Family Law Group at Lawrence, Lawrence, Stevenson LLP. With over 12 years experience in advising separating and divorcing clients, she has developed expertise in litigation and negotiation in the areas of property division, child and spousal support, custody and access and domestic contracts. Meredith is a member of the Peel-Halton Collaborative Family Law Practice Group and enjoys speaking to community groups and schools on various aspects of family law. 

View all articles by Meredith Cox
Imagine a way to resolve the thorny issues of your relationship breakdown, which allows you to maintain your dignity and work cooperatively with your spouse and both lawyers. Does this sound frighteningly like the "dawning of the Age of Aquarius" in Family Law? Believe it or not, couples do not have to be adversaries to the bitter end. There is a new way to put some finality to your relationship. Family lawyers and clients are getting excited about the positive outcomes created by the Collaborative Family Law process.

The traditional model of going to Court to resolve marital disputes conjures up memories of Arnie Becker and the popular 1980's television series, L.A. Law. Perhaps more currently, we think of Ally McBeal and Boston Legal. The antics of the lawyers, the clients and the judges are amusing, but what if someone aired your dirty laundry in public?

If you opt into the true collaborative model, you and your spouse agree not to go to Court. In fact, if you choose to pull the plug on the process and go before a judge, you cannot continue to use your lawyer. He or she and the firm must withdraw. This requirement helps maintain the commitment of both parties and the lawyers to finding a workable solution to each problem. Don't worry - your lawyer will be by your side to advise you of your rights and obligations while coaching you in the negotiations.

Collaborative Family Law is not for everyone; there are lots of cases where a judge's ruling is exactly what is required. Nevertheless, for those couples who place a high value on respect, integrity and making their children's needs a priority, there may be a good fit. For control freaks, the collaborative process allows them to reach their own agreement. Communicators will find the process permits them to speak freely in a completely safe environment. Problem-solvers will love the chance to find their own creative solutions. The classic healer personalities will appreciate the opportunity to help the other spouse move into the next phase of life. Honest and forthcoming types will enjoy knowing they are engaging in fully open information-sharing sessions.

Full disclosure is the norm. If you are not prepared to be frank and open with your financial and other relevant information, don't bother with Collaborative Lawyers. They can't act for you anyway. You might be better off in Court dealing with multiple filing deadlines, case conferences, motions, settlement conferences, discoveries, more motions, trial management conferences and trials.

If you need to involve other collaborative practitioners, you have plenty of access to financial professionals, family and child specialists and divorce coaches. The combined experience, knowledge and wisdom of all these professions foster the best decisions for the future of your family.

The Collaborative Model does not come with a guarantee. There is always the "human factor". Some people are bent on revenge and doing harm. Others are incapable of acting in good faith. Those individuals should select different dispute resolution methods more suited to their needs.

If someone could offer you a more positive way to end a relationship, which does not allow any further damage to you or your family, why wouldn't you seriously consider it?

Key Features of Collaborative Family Law

  • Agreement not to go to Court
  • Children's needs placed in priority
  • Co-operation, dignity, integrity & respect are key values
  • Full and honest disclosure of all financial & relevant information
  • Access to other professionals if necessary (financial, mental health, parenting, divorce coaches)

For more information about Collaborative Family Law, go to

Readers are cautioned against relying upon the brief statements in this article. Any editorial comments should not be taken as legal opinion. Inquiries with respect to Collaborative Law, Separation or Divorce should be addressed to a family lawyer.

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  • Comment #1 (Posted by Jill)
    Very good article, wish I could have gotten my spouse to have agreed to this long ago. Almost 1 year into the divorce process and have aged tremendously over the stress and cost. I would recommend this in a prenuptial agreement.
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