Collaborative practice (https://aifs.gov.au/publications/family-matters/issue-85/what-thing-called-collaborative-law) is more of an advisory method of alternative dispute resolution in divorce. It is more professional, focused and result driven approach to the separation process.
Various domain experts are roped into a collaborative session. Such as family lawyers for legal advice, psychologists for relationship counselling and/or child counselling, financial experts for property valuation etc.
These domain experts are trained professionals in collaborative law and provide their inputs on the matters that are discussed by the separating couples. The expert advice assists the couple in arriving at a reasonable arrangement of child care, finances, properties, maintenance etc. This empowering practice creates win-win solutions for both the partners and they are more than happy to stick to the plans, they have drawn.
How Collaborative Practice works:
To start with, there is an agreement that must be signed by the collaborating team and the partners, stating that they agree to resolve their family dispute through collaborative approach and consent to out of court settlements.
If the arrangements recommended by the collaborative team is not satisfactory to the partners, they can file for court proceedings. In such cases, the collaborative lawyers do not represent the partners in the court. Instead, separate family lawyers must be hired to represent their divorce case in the court.
Most of the time, the solutions recommended by the collaborative team find resonance by the couples. In unlikely cases, the couple goes ahead and litigate in the court.
Collaborative Practice And its Formats:
Collaborative practice is necessarily conducted under a trained family lawyer in collaborative law. The Collaborative lawyer shifts and navigates the collaboration process.
The collaborative practice can be conducted in 3 formats, depending on the needs and characteristics of the clients:
- Neutral Expert
Neutral experts are appointed with the consensus of both the partners and their collaborative lawyers. The expert or experts can be from any domain such child care, counselling, finance etc., depending on the demand of the situation.
The neutral expert or experts, advice the couple impartially after listening to their concerns and demands.
In this format, the domain experts (as mentioned earlier in the post) drive the collaborative process and advise the suitable solutions to the clients’ needs.
After the clients’ consent, the collaborative lawyers take up the legal process forward by preparing the legal documents and getting consent orders from the court.
- Collaborative Lawyer
The collaborative lawyers from both the sides, drive the negotiation process and suggest solutions.
Advantages of Collaborative Divorce:
With all the above information, the advantages, the collaborative divorce brings to the separating families is evident.
Unanimous Solutions: The arrangements agreed upon are consented by all the concerned parties. This makes getting further legal orders and enforcement easy.
Family Centric: The negotiations are children-centric and ensure co-parenting. So far that is the best and most applauded results of collaborative divorce settlements.
Open Communication: The communication channels throughout the process are kept open, cordial and respectful. This also ensures, both the partners are honestly sharing all the information required to work out fair solutions.
Stress-free: When the couples are fretting over the litigation in the court and likely orders, they are under constant stress and this works against them in gaining common ground for achieving positive arrangements.
Empowered Results: The clients are empowered to discuss their concerns freely and actively participate in negotiations.
Fair Settlement: Because of all the above benefits, the clients can have a just and equitable settlement. The entire team of collaborative practitioners and clients work towards achieving a common goal, instead of working against each other.
However, severe cases of drug addiction, behavioural abnormality or domestic violence cases must be immediately referred to legal actions. Collaborative practice may not be helpful in such cases.
Make the most of such services to resolve your marital problems instead of knocking on the doors of the court at the slightest signal of relationship breakdown. In many cases, I have known, the divorce is called off and the couple starts seeing things from their partner’s perspective after series of dispute resolution sessions!
Wish you luck!