Learn About Collaborative Practice

Are you a separating or divorcing couple looking for a different way to find a clear resolution that doesn’t involve going to court and addresses the conflict between you in a transformative way?

All too often, a couple’s decision to separate or divorce triggers a courtroom battle which is psychologically, emotionally, and financially draining – not just for the couple, but for their children.

Collaborative Practice helps create an open environment to work through challenges, keeping a family and child focus as you work towards a solution. Professionals are trained to help keep respectful communication, arriving at a custom-planned solution that works best for everyone.

When you use the collaborative process, you get a resolution that is:

Less expensive than traditional litigation

Less stressful for your children​

Private – no airing of personal matters in a public court​

Tailor-made for your individual circumstances​

More time efficient – no waiting for the court's backlog​

Promoting of an ongoing civil relationship with your former partner​

Members Involved In Collaborative Practice:

Family Lawyers

Work with your lawyer, who will guide and advise you through the Collaborative Process. They will help you stay informed and confident as you move towards an agreement. 

Collaborative Financial Professionals

Work with a trusted financial professional to help you and your partner resolve financial aspects of your separation in a way that is mutually beneficial.

Collaborative Family Professionals

Work with a trusted family professional to assist you in navigating the emotional challenges one will face when separating. 
 

How Collaborative Practice Works:

Speak with one of our Collaboratively trained professionals:

To get started, reach out to any of our Collaboratively trained legal, financial, or family professionals. Browse through the list and find a member that connects with you, and get in contact to arrange an initial meeting. We can breakdown the collaborative process in more detail for you and explain how it works based on your specific family situation.

Agree to commit to the Collaborative Process:

After the initial consultation, both parties will sign a Participation Agreement. Signing this document ensures that you, your spouse, and your professional collaborative team will be committed to the principles of Collaborative Practice, and work towards reaching a settlement by focusing on goals and interests, rather than taking hardline positions. If a resolution is unable to be achieved, lawyers on both sides are required to resign from the case. This keeps the team committed to progress. 

Meet and work through conflicts:

When the process starts, you and your former spouse/partner sit down with the support of your chosen Collaborative professionals to outline the goals and interests you both have going into the process. Both sides can bring their thoughts to the table, while the collaborative professionals work to diffuse tension and keep conversations productive.  All relevant legal and non-legal issues are considered, and a plan is set to work through issues towards a resolution. 

Outline a parenting plan where there are children:

If children form a part of your family, the family professional will work with both parents to reach a common ground on issues affecting the children. Commonly, these discussions are around deciding a parenting schedule that works for both parties and the children, and around how all decisions regarding the children will be made going forward.  The family professional can also assist parents in communication strategies that can alleviate the stress of the separation on the children. 

Final negotiation and settlement:

With the issues and goals identified, the Collaborative Team works to generate various options for resolution.  These options consider the legal framework but can also be creative to meet the needs of each family.  Our team is trained to work efficiently through challenges as they arise, so that decisions can be made. Once final decisions are reached, a separation agreement will be prepared that covers all the items that have been discussed. It is signed by the couple, making it an enforceable contract.  Your Collaborative Separation Agreement provides a framework to help you move forward into the next chapter of your life. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Collaborative Practice has three key elements:

  1. The voluntary and free exchange of information
  2. The pledge not to go to court
  3. A commitment to mutual respect and co-operation. 

A Collaborative team is the combination of professionals you choose to work with you to resolve issues.

If issues are strictly legal, it might simply be you and your Collaborative lawyers. But separation and divorce often involve challenging financial, emotional, or child-related issues.

In addition to your lawyers, you may want the support of other Collaborative professionals: A neutral child specialist can provide insight into concerns of the children and help craft parenting plans.

A neutral financial specialist can help gather and explain financial information and create future projections for settlement options.

A Family professional can help you and your partner improve communication and manage conflict.

When you choose a Collaborative approach, you each hire a Collaboratively-trained lawyer. You meet privately with your lawyers and discuss whether you could benefit from the expertise of Collaboratively-trained Family or Financial professionals. Or sometimes Collaborative Family or Financial professionals are the first ones you see and they refer you to Collaborative lawyers.

Everyone agrees in writing not to go to court.

Face to face meetings between you and your chosen Collaborative professionals are designed to produce an honest exchange of information and a clear understanding about needs and expectations, especially concerning the well-being of any children.

Once you have this information you are supported to generate options and make mutually-acceptable choices about financial and parenting issues. The outcome reached using this team problem-solving approach is documented in your separation agreement. 

Your situation determines how quickly your separation or divorce process proceeds.

However, Collaborative Practice can be more direct and efficient.

By focusing on problem-solving instead of blame and grievances – there’s an opportunity to strive for respectful results.

Full disclosure and open communications help you cover all the issues in a timely manner. And since you settle out of court, there’s no wait for the multiple court dates necessary with conventional divorce.

An agreement reached through mutual problem-solving (as opposed to adversarial negotiations or capitulation) is more durable and more likely to be complied with over the long run. 

In mediation an impartial third party (the mediator) assists you both to negotiate and helps you try to settle issues. However, the mediator cannot give either of you legal advice or be an advocate for either side. If you each have lawyers, they may or may not be present at the mediation sessions. If the lawyers are not present you can consult with them between sessions. If you reach agreement, the mediator prepares a draft agreement for review and editing by both you and your lawyers.

Mediation is often used by couples with relatively low conflict who can negotiate without their lawyers present.

Collaborative Practice can be used by couples experiencing low, medium or high conflict or trust issues, who want the support of their lawyers and other professionals during the negotiation sessions. Collaborative professionals, who have training similar to mediators, help assure a balanced process that is positive and productive. When agreement is reached the lawyers prepare a draft agreement for review and editing by both of you.

Both Collaborative Practice and mediation rely on voluntary, free exchange of information and commitment to resolutions that reflect the interests of both spouses. If mediation does not result in a settlement, you may choose to use your lawyer in litigation, if this is what you and your lawyer have agreed. In Collaborative Practice, both you and your lawyers sign an agreement focusing everyone on resolution. It specifically states that the Collaborative lawyers and other professional team members are disqualified from participating in litigation if the Collaborative process ends without reaching an agreement.

Your choice of mediation or Collaborative Practice should be made with professional advice. 

A conventional separation or divorce process is based on adversarial principles. Parties choose to use, or often threaten to use, the court system and judges to resolve their dispute.

Couples working within an adversarial framework often come to view each other as adversaries, and separation and divorce as a battleground.

The resulting conflicts can take an immense toll on emotions – especially your children’s.

Collaborative Practice is by definition a non-adversarial approach. Your lawyers pledge in writing not to go to court. They negotiate in good faith, and work together with you to achieve mutual settlement outside the courts. Collaborative Practice is designed to ease the emotional strains of a break-up and protect the well-being of children. 

The guiding principle of Collaborative Practice is respect.

A respectful tone encourages you to show compassion, understanding and co-operation.

Collaborative professionals are trained in non-confrontational negotiation, which helps keep discussions productive.

The goal of Collaborative Practice is to build a settlement on areas of agreement, not to perpetuate disagreement. 

Separation and divorce are both an ending and a beginning.

Collaborative Practice helps you anticipate and include your need to move forward. It also makes your children’s future a top priority. Collaborative Practice helps you both establish a solid foundation and supports your goals for a smoother transition to the next stage of your lives. 

Get Started with Collaborative Family Law in Durham Region

The Members area of our website offers you a list of lawyers, financial advisors, and family professionals that are ready to help. Browse through and contact any member you feel comfortable with to discuss your needs further.