The work primarily happens in settlement meetings. The meetings are run by the Collaborative professionals, and the spouses are both the subject and full participants. There is a standard Agenda for the first meeting to get us organized, oriented and started into the talks. Future meetings are managed to adapt to the issues as we define them, and scheduled to allow us to get and process information.


Each spouse has their own specially-trained lawyer with them at every moment. Each lawyer helps their own client effectively express themselves and advocate for their needs and wants, and participate fully, while working with their Collaborative colleague to keep things moving and respectful. Other allied Collaborative professionals ideally are in the mix too (Family Professionals – often with a mental health and/or social work background, and Financial Professionals – with financial planning expertise).

The goal is a cooperative, safe, positive bargaining environment where the spouses take control of their own futures – and explore together what their independent lives mean financially, interpersonally, and as parents. The safe space maximizes client capacity so they can do their best and get their best deal with less rancour, less anxiety, less expense, and with more control than the court process. We prioritize the needs of any children involved and to work to preserve (and even renovate) the spouses’ ability to work together cooperatively into the future.

Together the best possible version of that future takes shape. The agreement arises when mutually acceptable solutions are built that comprehensively touch upon and solve all the issues. What is optimal is defined by the spouses – guided by the experience of the lawyers and fully informed about what the law requires – but not confined by that. And their terms are what they agree upon, not what some judge or court imposes on them.

Christopher Arnold is a leader and pioneer in the Collaborative movement in Ontario, and is one of its most experienced practitioners with now over 20 years of settling cases in this method. He has served as President of the Ottawa practice group and what was then called the Ontario Collaborative Law Federation (now the Ontario Association of Collaborative Professionals) representing over 600 collaborative professionals across Ontario. Chris also built and taught the first law school level course in Collaborative Family Law at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law in 2007 and continues to teach the next generation of lawyers in this exciting and revolutionary settlement process.

More Information

If you are interested in exploring Collaborative more, call us. We can strategize with you about how best to invite your spouse to join you in this process. The same things that draw you to it – control, reduced cost, better support – might appeal to them too. Its also common to doubt your spouse’s ability to cooperate or work with you. Remember they have a Collaborative lawyer to help them, and they may choose the process out of their own self-interest – and your family can take a dignified and constructive path towards the solutions it needs.

A dignified path that makes sure everyone is taken care of is a divorce legacy worth choosing and working for!

The International organization the IACP

The Ontario organization

Ottawa/Eastern Ontario’s organization

A 19-minute video called “A Safe Place”

or you can surf the wild interwebs yourself by typing “Collaborative Divorce”, “Collaborative Practice”, or “Collaborative Family Law” into your favourite search engine.