The collaborative process allows discussions regarding separation agreements, marriage contracts or cohabitation agreement to occur with transparency and respect. Parties are encouraged to be creative and come up with acceptable options existing within or outside the prescribed legal model. While the law is always a backdrop, a couple may choose to design a customized agreement that fits their own family’s specific needs.
Parties may work with a team of collaborative practitioners including lawyers, financial professionals, family and child professionals and divorce coaches. The combined experience, knowledge and wisdom of the team help with the decisions made for the future of the family.
In the Collaborative Family Process, couples agree not to go to Court. In fact, they sign a Participation Agreement in which they contractually agree to terminate their respective collaborative lawyers and retain litigation counsel if they wish to go to Court.
The potential for the withdrawal of the lawyer from the file in the event the collaborative process breaks down is a strong incentive to continue working on resolution. During the process, the lawyers provide their clients with advice regarding their legal rights and obligations. The lawyer also provides information regarding the existing legal framework while generating options and solutions which are not required to fit exactly within the prescribed legal model. Part of the lawyer’s role is to ensure the client understands his or her legal entitlement in the context of the benefits and limitations of the terms of the agreement.
The Family and Financial professionals are integral members of the team supporting the clients as neutrals. Family professionals assist with complex communication challenges, mental health and parenting issues. Financial professionals gather documents and provide clarity on questions related to support and property division (disclosure, income determination, business valuations).
Collaborative Family Law is not for every family. There are many cases where a Judge’s ruling is required. Nevertheless, for couples placing a high value on respect, dignity and their children’s best interest, the collaborative process is a great fit.
Full disclosure is mandatory. Parties must be frank and open with their financial and other relevant information. Should a party choose not to provide full disclosure, the collaborative process may end.