Q: What is collaborative family law?

A: Collaborative family law is a family-focused approach to resolving the issues between a separating couple in which the parties work in a cooperative manner, along with their collaboratively trained lawyers, to come to a resolution that works for their family. In entering the collaborative process, parties commit to attempting to resolve their issues without the use of the courts and without making threats regarding court.

The collaborative process often involves the use of financial and/or family neutrals. Financial neutrals are generally accountants or financial planners who provide unbiased financial information and advice to the parties and assist the team in developing a settlement that is financially viable. Family neutrals are generally therapists or counsellors who work with the parties to work through conflict and often provide extensive support in developing plans for parenting children and improving communication on an ongoing basis. Together, the lawyers, neutrals and the parties work together to arrive at a settlement that suits the individual family and their unique circumstances.

Q: I am angry with my spouse and we do not agree on everything. Does this mean the collaborative approach isn’t an option for us?

A: It is entirely normal that separating people have some level of anger, resentment or disagreement between them. The collaborative process does not require a perfect relationship to be successful. However, it does require that spouses have respect for one another, a commitment to acting fairly throughout the process and a desire to work together to find a solution, even if they cannot agree on what that solution looks like at the outset.

Often, spouses are able to agree on some fundamental goals they have in common, including, for example, ensuring that their children feel loved and supported, or that they can both attend future events like graduations or weddings without conflict. Often, with the help of a family neutral, spouses can begin to address underlying issues between them and improve their relationship for the future.
Parties who have an extreme level of conflict or who are unable to work together to identify at least some common goals may find that the collaborative process is not the right fit for them. A collaboratively trained lawyer will work with a client to determine whether this is the case.

Q: Will the collaborative process be less emotionally difficult than going to Court?

A: Separation is almost always difficult for spouses, regardless of what process they use. However, the collaborative process can avoid some of the aspects of litigation that can be very upsetting. For example, the process can help the parties to avoid having to discuss often very personal and sensitive issues between them or involving their children in court. It also allows parties to make decisions about their own and their children’s futures rather than turning this power over to the Court to make decisions which may not be favourable. The involvement of a family neutral can also provide an outlet for addressing the emotional stresses of separation so that parties can move productively towards a final resolution.

The collaboratively trained family lawyers at Mills & Mills LLP can assist you in determining the process that is the best fit for your family to resolve issues stemming from separation. Contact us online or at 416-682-1025.

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