In Collaborative Law the lawyers and the clients sign a contract which states that they will work together as a team, all information will be shared, the process is confidential and neither of the spouses will commence a court proceeding while they are in the Collaborative Law Process. If settlement cannot be reached and the parties wish to proceed to court they will be required to retain new lawyers.
I initially found this difficult to accept. Why couldn’t we negotiate “collaboratively” and if necessary proceed to court without having to hire different lawyers?
I now understand the reason this will not work. In a true Collaborative Law Process all four parties are working together as a team. The clients will express their goals and concerns and they will disclose all of their assets and available income. The two lawyers will then use their combined skill and knowledge to suggest solutions and/or compromises that work for both spouses. Without the protection of the Collaborative Law contract lawyers have a duty only to act in the best interests of their clients and this can be counterproductive to finding solutions that work for both spouses.
In family law the issues can be extremely complex and as one lawyer I was working with, Mary Mouat, Q.C. put it, “Together we have over 70 years of legal experience to draw from.”
The Collaborative Law process is a relatively new concept and it is gaining momentum as lawyers and spouses come to understand and accept that it can be the best way to navigate a separation.
Deborah A. Todd