Collaborative Law

Resolving Disputes Respectfully

What is Collaborative Law?

Collaborative Law Practice is a process of respectfully resolving disputes between parties who are committed to open, honest and private negotiation.

The goal of Collaborative Law Practice is to resolve all issues relating to a dispute in a non-adversarial manner without going to Court. The advantage of the Collaborative Law Practice process is that it is the parties to the dispute who have control over the resolution and decision making process rather than an independent third party namely a Judge, who will make a decision on behalf of the parties.

Key Characteristics of the Collaborative Law Practice Process

Key characteristics of the Collaborative Practice process can be generally summarised as follows: -

  • Each of the parties to the dispute, their appointed lawyers and other collaborative professionals who may be called upon to assist the parties with the Collaborative Law Practice process, sign a Participation Agreement.
  • The Collaborative Practice process proceeds by way of a series of open round table meetings with the parties and their respective lawyers at their sides.
  • Each of the parties has the opportunity to openly identify issues of concern or in dispute and openly and sincerely work together towards resolution of each of the issues during the   series of meetings.
  • Depending on the complexity of the case and bearing in mind that each and every family is different, in some cases for example, in a dispute involving property, the parties may elect to appoint a Financial Advisor also trained in the Collaborative Law Practice process to assist with financial re-structure and future asset planning.
  • If successful, at the completion of the Collaborative Practice process, the lawyers attend to the task of drawing a legally binding agreement which following execution by each of the parties is simply filed into the Registry of the Family Court of Australia for sealing. The agreement then becomes binding on each of the parties.
  • If discussions and negotiations are unsuccessful, the respective lawyers must withdraw from the case. The lawyers can then further assist the parties by referring each of them to independent litigation lawyers.

Advantages of Collaborative Law Practice

  • Parties have control over the process
  • Reduction in overall legal costs
  • Parties are motivated to learn what works to achieve settlement
  • Parties learn to problem solve and work with each other
  • Parties learn to communicate openly and respectfully with the other party
  • Lawyers and clients work towards a “win-win” settlement
  • Lawyers and clients all work together collaboratively for a fair settlement
  • Clients often walk away with their dignity intact and will often prepare parties for the post separation relationship particularly when children are involved
  • No inflammatory exchange of correspondence between lawyers
  • All discussions and negotiations take place in a private arena away from the public arena of the Court system
  • If a case does not settle and new lawyers are retained to litigate, the parties have had the benefit of engaging a settlement specialist and a trial specialist thereby avoiding unecessary or premature use of the Court system

Disadvantages of Collaborative Law Practice

  • If parties are unable to reach agreement, the settlement lawyers appointed by each of the parties to represent them during the process are unable to continue to act for their respective clients  – the parties will have no choice other than to retain new litigation lawyers to their case