If your relationship has broken down it is likely that you are feeling a range of emotions, including stress, anxiety, loss, loneliness and confusion. These feelings are often compounded by the uncertainty surrounding what the future holds for you and your children.
The adversarial battle field
Traditionally, when one or both parties come to the decision that they are unable to agree about property division and/or issues concerning their children, they seek resolution through the court system. Although family law requires the parties to make a genuine effort to resolve their disputes either by direct negotiation or mediation, it is not uncommon that the lack of trust and goodwill between parties after a relationship breakdown makes resolving the issues difficult. Therefore it left to the parties’ lawyers to negotiate on their behalf. Once the parties have retained lawyers to “fight” for their perceived entitlements, the adversarial process takes on a life of its own, which in many cases results in the parties relinquishing control of the decision making process to their lawyers.
At RKL, we believe that parties in family law matters should imagine that up until their separation, a warm coat was draped over their family to protect them against the vagaries of everyday life. However, in a family relationship breakdown, the coat is torn and the members of the family are left with little, if any, protection and an increased exposure to the elements. Parties may believe that by clutching at their lawyers they have a shield, but once the lawyers are no longer in the picture how are all members of the family to move forward?
Moving forward with collaborative practice
Collaborative law is a relatively new way of resolving family law disputes. Instead of the traditional adversarial process, collaborative law uses a dispute resolution process in which the parties sign an agreement not to go to Court and commit to resolving their issues outside of the family law system. Each party is represented by a Collaborative Law Practitioner (i.e. a lawyer trained in collaborative practice), and the parties and their Collaborative Law Practitioners meet together to discuss problems and achieve an outcome that meets the needs of both parties. Continuing with the coat analogy, through the collaborative law process, instead of watching as the parties tear the coat, lawyers assist the parties to unstitch the coat and make it into a scarf, a hat and a pair of gloves. In working together to make the scarf, hat and gloves, each member of the family, including the children, are able to move forward with the benefit of some protection and security. Collaborative law removes the fighting aspect and focuses on communication, respect and conflict resolution. In choosing a non-adversarial, collaborative approach to resolving disputes, parties are not subject to intimidating threats of litigation and, consequently, they and their children benefit from reduced stress and anxiety levels.
Thinking about the children
Parties engaged in the adversarial process can easily loose sight of the needs and feelings of their children. Conversely, in the collaborative environment, parties are committed to a process that enables their children’s voices to be heard. The crucial issue in every family law breakdown, regardless of the pain each party may feel, is how to best support the children to get through the relationship breakdown and move forward to the future.
The skills parties learn during the collaborative process can help them to move forward as communicative and cooperative co-parents, which is a precious gift to their children. In learning to negotiate and work through problems together, the parties can continue to provide their children with stability, security and support even after they have separated.
Advantages of collaborative law
- Parties, their lawyers and other professionals work together, in collaboration, over a series of joint meetings;
- Lawyers and clients focus on settling the dispute instead of preparing for Court;
- Communication between lawyers is kept to a minimum;
- The involvement of clients gives them control over the process;
- Parties have access to the expertise of child specialists, accountants, financial advisors, counsellors and psychologists; and
- If the parties are cooperative and willing to comply with their disclosure obligations, communication and compromise, collaborative is a timelier and more cost-effective means of dispute resolution in family law matters than the alternative of litigation. Risks involved with collaborative law
Importantly, collaborative law is not for everyone. If discussions between the parties breakdown and a settlement cannot be reached, the lawyers for both parties are disqualified and no longer able to act for their clients. Therefore, before agreeing to engage in the collaborative process, you must be certain that both parties are able and willing to fully commit.
Magda Kron, Collaborative Law Practitioner
Magda Kron, partner of Rudstein Kron Lawyers, is a Collaborative Law Practitioner and a Member of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals. Magda understands that not every family breakdown will benefit from collaborative law. Magda will be able to help you to decide if you and your family are suitable participants in the collaborative process.
Magda believes every family law client should be given the option to seriously consider whether collaborative practice would benefit their family and she commits to ensuring that through the collaborative process, appropriate goals are set, realistic expectations are met and that the process is respectful for all concerned.
To find out more about collaborative law and how it might help you and your family, please contact Rudstein Kron Lawyers.