Collaborative practice is a new and better way to resolve disputes, particularly in the family law area. Couples, with the help of their lawyers, control the process and the outcome in a climate of co-operation. This reduces the stress inherent in many family law disputes. Trained practitioners assist the couple to focus on achieving a resolution free from the threat of court litigation. The process focuses on the interests of the parties and their children. Collaborative Practice allows the parties to maintain their dignity, lessens hostility, reduces the negative impact on the children and sets the stage for getting on with life in a constructive manner. The process allows the parties to make their own decisions and to have full control over the final outcome rather than handing it over to third parties for decision.
Gus Cullen is a fully trained and experienced Collaborative Family Lawyer .He is active member of the East Coast Collaborative Family Law Group.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: What is the purpose of collaborative family law?
Answer: To assist you and your partner to resolve all matters arising out of your separation, divorce or other family dispute in a dignified and respectful way for the benefit of the whole family.
Question: What is collaborative family law?
Answer: Both you and your partner retain separate specially trained lawyers to assist you in resolving issues without going to court.
- Your collaborative family lawyers acts for you, providing legal advice and guidance throughout the process, but working with your partner and his/her lawyers as part of a team to help achieve settlement.
- You, your partner and your lawyers agree to work together in a respectful, honest and dignified way to try and reach settlement without threatening to go to court. All sign an agreement disqualifying your collaborative lawyers from representing you at court if the collaborative process breaks down. Neither of the lawyers, nor their respective firms can then act for you although they will still be bound by confidentiality about the negotiations.
- Issues are discussed and hopefully resolved in face to face meetings between you, your partner and your lawyers. Settlement discussions take place in your presence which helps ensure that you and your partner remain in charge of the process. The process thereby helps improve future communication, particularly important when you have children.
- You and your partner have a duty of full and frank disclosure all information and documents are provided within the process.
- Letters between lawyers are discouraged, thereby keeping costs and acrimony to a minimum.
- Discussions are centred on the needs and interests of you, your partner and the children.
- Meetings are arranged at the start of the process without you having to wait for court dates. Provided all the participants enter the process in good faith, the process is faster, cheaper and less acrimonious than court proceedings.
- You and the lawyers can work as part of a group of professionals, including counsellors, accountants\pension advisors to draw on the skills of those professionals to assist you and your partner in the process.
- For issues requiring expert opinion (for example an accountant to give tax advice or value a business) the collaborative team will jointly instruct independent consultants.
Question: Is collaborative family law the best choice for me?
Answer: Collaborative family law is not for every client or indeed every lawyer but it is worth considering if some of the following is important for you.
- You want a dignified non-confliction resolution of issues.
- You and your partner may have children and wish to reach a resolution by agreement with their needs and interests at the forefront.
- You do not wish to incur the costs and animosity which can be generated by court litigation and positional bargaining.
- You would like to keep open the possibility of friendship with your partner and extended family in the future.
- You want to retain control over decisions concerning your life and future welfare and the welfare of children. You do not wish to be obliged to accept decisions by way of Court Order over your future arrangements.
- Your main objective in the process is not to “seek revenge” on your partner but to reach a fair and reasonable settlement.
- You require the assistance of qualified professionals such as collaboratively trained lawyers to help you negotiate in face to face meetings.
Question: What kind of information and documents do I have to provide in the collaborative family law process
Answer: You and your partner must both provide full and frank disclosure of all financial information early and promptly in the process.
Question: What if after reaching an agreement, I discover that there has been a failure to disclose relevant information or material?
Answer: The settlement agreement reached during the collaborative process is no different from any other negotiated settlement. If the outcome of the settlement would have been different if such information had been available, then it is open to you to seek to overturn the agreement and this applied even if the agreement has been made a Rule of Court.