What is Collaborative Family Law?
Collaborative family lawyers and their clients sign an Agreement to resolve family law issues outside of court, and may involve other collaborative separation professionals such as coaches, a financial specialist and a child specialist. Collaborative separation professionals are trained to resolve disputes by working with the parties toward an Agreement without court proceedings. The collaborative process addresses legal issues which arise when a couple separates and helps each of them make the transition from living together to living apart in a way that minimizes trauma. When issues are resolved by a collaborative process the lawyers prepare a formal Separation Agreement for signature by the parties.
The Collaborative Participation Agreement
At the beginning of a Collaborative Process the parties, their lawyers, and other members of the collaborative team sign a Collaborative Participation Agreement. The Participation Agreement requires among other things that no party will start court proceedings; that there will be full disclosure of all financial and other information required; and that neither of the parties will change existing parenting, financial and other circumstances except with the agreement of both parties. If a party fails to follow the Participation Agreement the process ends and the lawyers for each of the parties can no longer represent them.
When is the Collaborative Process appropriate?
The collaborative process is appropriate for current or former spouses, partners, or parents of minor or dependent children who would like assistance resolving family law issues and are committed to resolving their issues outside of court in a way that respects and addresses the emotional consequences of a separation.
The collaborative process must be safe for everyone involved. Lawyers who practice family law in B.C. are required by law to ask about any history of family violence, and will ensure that a collaborative process does not proceed unless safety concerns can be effectively addressed.
Where a collaborative process involves issues affecting children, the views of the children will be heard and taken into account by agreement when appropriate and usually with the involvement of a Child Specialist who is trained to speak with children.
In addition to their Collaborative Lawyers, the parties may choose to involve one or more coaches, a child specialist and a financial specialist.
Coaches are mental health professionals trained in the collaborative family law process. Coaches help each separating party deal with emotional issues that can often complicate resolution of the legal issues. Coaches may also help the parents develop a parenting plan that describes the arrangements for the children including each parent’s time with the children and how certain decisions will be made such as scheduling activities for the children.
A Child Specialist is trained to meet with children and gather useful information from them in a way that properly takes into account a child’s age and the impact of the separation on the child. A child specialist can advise when a child may need assistance including therapeutic support, and can ascertain and provide parents with the views of a child where that is agreed and appropriate.
A Financial Specialist may gather the financial information of the parties and provide information respecting financial issues such as determining the income available for financial support, providing adequately for retirement, dividing a business, and tax implications.
Visit the CFSP website for a list of trained collaborative lawyers, coaches, child specialists and financial specialists in Victoria who are also members of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP).