Collaborative Law - The Basics

Collaborative Practice, also known as Collaborative Family Law, or “CFL” is a structured negotiation process where spouses directly discuss, explore and settle on resolutions to their family law issues outside of court.  They are supported during the negotiations by their own specially trained experienced family law lawyer. Your lawyer simultaneously assists you while working together (collaborating) with the other lawyer to create and manage respectful and effective settlement meetings that are built to maximize spousal participation. 

The parties drive the content and work with the lawyers to customize the process to best meet their process needs.  The goal is to create a cooperative, safe, positive bargaining environment.  They take responsibility and ownership for their own marriage, their own lives – and most importantly their own future.  They build the best future that meets everyone’s needs and interests, most importantly the needs and interests of their children.  They work out their best possible solution as they define it – with an eye to what the law requires but not confined by that.  And their solutions are theirs, not what some judge or court imposes.

CFL shares some characteristics with mediation, but it has significant differences.  There is no neutral facilitator in a collaborative process.  Controlling the meeting and its progress is a shared duty between the collaborative lawyers.  They work together to ensure the communication is safe, productive, stays focussed on solutions, and comprehensively touches upon and solves all the issues.

Another difference from mediation is that your own lawyer is sitting right beside you – ready, willing and able to give you guidance and legal advice in ‘real time’.  Some clients may feel that they need ‘live’ support because they feel a bit uneasy or alone, or fear making mistakes when bargaining in a mediation environment.  Really, mediation and collaboration are first-cousins – each with some different advantages.  Depending on your situation and your spouse, both are likely preferable to some of your other choices!

The goal of the CFL process is to maximize client capacity so YOU can do YOUR best, and YOUR best deal with less animosity, less anxiety, less expense, and more control than the court process. The CFL process ALSO PRIORITIZES the needs of any children involved, and WE work HARD to preserve (and even improve) the spouses ability to work together cooperatively into the future.

Here is more about CFL: – The International Academy of Collaborative Professionals – very deep resources and multiple links. – The Collaborative Law Network, an Ottawa-based Collaborative Family Law group of 40+ professionals who provide these services in Eastern Ontario. – The Ontario Collaborative Law Federation connects 17 disparate practice groups from across the Ontario collaborative community with more than 550 professionals.  You may need this if you wish to refer others to collaborative services in other parts of the Province – it can help you find and connect to the right group depending on the geographic area.

If you are interested in exploring the collaborative approach, then call us.  We can strategize with you about how best to invite your spouse to join you in this process.  The same things that draws you to it – control, reduced cost, better support – might appeal to them too, despite your doubts of their ability to cooperate or work with you.  They may choose the process too – out of self-interest – and your family can take a dignified and constructive path towards the resolution it needs.

Collaborative law helps clients take responsibility and ownership for their own marriage, their own lives - and most importantly their own future.