Collaborative Family Law 

“Collaborative law” refers to a more complex, structured negotiation process where parties and their lawyers agree to attend a series of what have been termed “four-way” meetings, in which negotiations take place.

At the outset, parties sign a formal agreement to commit to the collaborative law process, which includes making undertakings not to pursue litigation.

A key element of collaborative law is that lawyers may no longer act for their clients if one or both clients decide to withdraw from the process and commence court proceedings. In the collaborative law process, an interest-based model of negotiation is used and meetings can also involve experts, such as accountants, financial advisors and psychologists, if this will assist resolution. Collaborative law originated in the United States and Canada and is now becoming more widely used by Australian family lawyers.

How Collaborative Practice it works

Both parties have an initial meeting with their respective lawyers to obtain advice regarding the Collaborative Family Law process and to identify the issues that are important to them. The parties and their lawyers then come together in four-way meetings (you, your spouse/partner and each of your lawyers) to reach a settlement.

In these four way meetings the parties put their "cards on the table" and all issues are discussed in an open non-confrontational manner.

The lawyers support the negotiations by providing the parties with the structure to facilitate agreement as well as the benefit of their skills, advice and support. With this assistance, in an atmosphere of openness and honesty, couples can communicate their respective needs and work towards securing their future.

Some of the Characteristic of Collaborative Family law Practice

  • A shared commitment to proceed honestly, respectfully and in good faith;
  • Avoidance of litigation or the threat of litigation;
  • Active participation by clients including gathering and sharing of information, identification of interests and concerns etc;
  • Identification of goals and individual interests;
  • Joint retention of any additional experts needed in the process;
  • A commitment to voluntary disclosure of all facts and information material to the resolution of issues.

Some Advantages of Collaborative family law Practice include

All involved are committed to not exacerbating the conflict;

  • The professionals involved have undertaken the necessary training to help clients identify interests and manage the dispute by way of interest based negotiations;
  • Interdisciplinary Collaborative Practice may involve as necessary other professionals including mental health professionals as conflict coaches, child specialists where required, financial specialists including accountants etc;
  • Increased likelihood of preservation of relationships (personal, business, etc);
  • Minimisation of hostility and conflict;
  • Clients retain control over the dispute resolution process and eventual outcomes;
  • Maximum flexibility to explore creative solutions to fit the individual circumstances;
  • Maximises privacy;
  • Potential for cost savings;

A potential for improvement of clients communication, negotiation and problem solving skills which may assist to avoid or minimise future conflict.

Key Aspects of Collaborative family law Practice

An agreement to negotiate a mutually acceptable settlement without going to court to resolve disputes;

  • Honest and good faith communication and exchange of information;
  • A goal of creating shared solutions that take into account the interests of all parties;
  • Withdrawal of all professionals (including lawyers) if any party chooses to go to court;
  • A written commitment by way of binding agreement between the parties and their lawyers to the above before engaging in the process.

To understand how collaborative family law can help you, please contact our family lawyers.