A non confrontational alternative to litigation – Separating with dignity – the Collaborative Law process

Divorce or separation is undeniably one of the most difficult times of life for anyone affected.  However, it needn’t be destructive.  By adopting a Collaborative Law process, couples can replace the public, emotionally charged setting of the courts with a private, supportive process where they can resolve their differences in their own time.

The Collaborative Law process differs from a court’s approach, by promoting respect, with specially trained lawyers to guide the process, rather than everything riding on court timeframes and the decision of a judge.  Because in the Collaborative Law process, you, your parter and each your lawyers agree not to go to court, discussions are more open and less adversarial. This can support you to reach a thoughtful, reasoned settlement that enables you to move on with life.

The Collaborative Law process helps provide a safe environment in which strong emotions can be defused, allowing you to develop aims for the future.  A Collaborative Agreement, is signed by you and your lawyers, structures the process – allowing you to work towards settlement at your own pace, without the threat of court intervention.

Collaborative law is a process where a couple engages in a series of open, honest and dignified discussons about the terms of their separation with a view to reaching an agreement tailored to suit their priorities and needs. It allows couples and each of their lawyers to work closely as a team ,with respect for each other, in order to resolve disputes without going to court.

You each have the support and guidance of your own lawyer who is a trained Collaborative Law practitioner. Couples are guided to find fair and sensible solutions for the benefit of their family.

How could Collaborative Law benefit me?

  • Your focus is on the future.  Collaboration transforms divorce and separation from an adversarial, “win/lose” process into one that’s problem solving and constructive.  Open communication allows you and your partner to express your needs and wishes for the future, and gives you the tools to move on.
  • Your children benefit.  Any decisions that affect your children are being made by the two people in the world who know them best and lovem them most – their parents.
  • You are involved throughout.  Face-to-face meetings in the presence of lawyers make negotiatons direct and efficient.  And, because the collaborative process is structured around your needs, concerns and goals, while allowing both parties to be heard, you and your partner can work towards outcomes that you both can live with.
  • You enjoy confidentiality.  Problems and financial information are kept private.
  • You work with trained professionals who are important to all areas of your life.  Collaborative practice allows you to benefit from the support of child and financial specialists, specialist coaches and other professionals all working together on your team.

Who is Collaborative law for?

No single approach is right for everyone.  But many couples do find collaborative law a welcome alternative to the court process.  Collaborative law could be for you if you both:

  • Want a civilised, respectful resolution of the issues and are willing to focus on solutions rather than blame or revenge
  • Want to maintain a productive working relationship with each other
  • Are co-parenting and want to keep your children’s interests at the forefront
  • Value privacy
  • Wish to control of decision making over child care and/or financial arrangements and control over your own process of working through things
  • Place as much value on the relationship that would exist in the restructured family as on obtaining maximum resources

Is a Collaborative Law process right for me?

To determine whether a Collaborative Law process is right for you, ask yourself whether these values are important to you:

  • Respect “I want to maintain a tone of respect, even when we disagree.”
  • Our children “I want to prioritise the needs of our children.”
  • Equal consideration “My needs and those of my partner require equal consideration, and I will listen objectively.”
  • Solving issues “I believe that working creatively and co-operatively solves issues.”
  • The future “It is important to reach beyond today’s frustration and pain to plan for the future.”
  • Control of our own process “I can choose to maintain control of the separation and divorce process with my partner, and not relegate it to the courts.

Is Collaborative Law right for me?

To determine whether Collaborative Law is right for you, ask yourself whether these values are important to you:

  • “I want to maintain a tone of respect, even when we disagree.”
  • “I want to prioritise the needs of our children.”
  • “My needs and those of my partner require equal consideration, and I will listen objectively.”
  • “I believe that working creatively and co-operatively solves issues.”
  • “It is important to reach beyond today’s frustration and pain to plan for the future.”
  • “I can behave ethically towards my partner.”
  • “I can choose to maintain control of the separation and divorce process with my partner, and not relegate it to the courts.”

If you can say “yes” to these basic principals, then collaborative law may be for you.

How does Collaborative Law work?

Before you begin, you and your partner must decide whether you can work constructively together in an open, honest way.  Collaborative Law is for those who, instead of focusing on achieving the largest financial reward regardless of the cost, wish to find solutions that will benefit everyone in the family.  Once you’ve decided to try Collaborative Law, you will go through the following steps:

  • You and your partner each instruct a specialist collaborative family lawyer.  You can see a list of trained collaborative practitioners practising in Auckland at http://www.collaborativelaw.org.nz.
  • You both agree with your lawyers to work together as a team and to resolve issues without going to court.  All must be willing to sign up to a Collaborative Participation Agreement committing to this approach.  In addition, the lawyers contractually agree to serve as “settlement counsel”, barring them from ever representing their client in court in the case.
  • You and your partner, accompanied by your chosen collaborative lawyers, meet in “face to face” meetings, sometimes called four-way meetings.
  • At these meetings, your lawyers are there to provide support, legal advice and guidance. They also help you to conduct interest-based negotiations that focus on needs, and to work toward a parenting and/or financial plan and/or property division, that you can both accept.
  • You can enlist other experts to help as part of the team.  Additonal experts, such as child and financial specialists, may join th eprocess and meetings as and when you need them to.
  • Meetings are based on the prompt, honest and open disclosure of all information. Collaborative Law depends on you and your partner being clear about your needs and expectations, including the well-being of your children.  The final separation agreement will be the result of mutual problem solving.
  • If it happens that the process breaks down and either party decides to go to court to contest an issue, both collaborative lawyers remove themselves from the case and, if needed, arrange alternative representation for the parties.  This means, unlike all other legal processes, the risk of failing to achieve a settlement out of court is distributed in a very large part to the lawyers, as well as the parties.

Is Collaborative Law for everyone?

No, it’s not for everyone. Collaborative Law is best considered in cases where neither of you is out to seek revenge.

Call me to discuss if a collaborative approach might be right for you and your partner.