What is the Collaborative Process?
The collaborative process is an out-of-court dispute resolution process for couples going through relationship and/or marriage breakdown. It is client-directed and family-focused with a view to achieving a final resolution in a respectful manner within shorter timelines than traditional processes like litigation in Family Court.
Who Forms Part of the Collaborative Team?
The parties must choose collaboratively trained lawyers who are members in good standing with a collaborative practice group. The parties may also choose to work with a collaboratively trained family and/or financial professional who will remain neutral throughout the process. All professionals will work collaboratively with one another to assist the parties in reaching a mutually acceptable settlement of their issues in dispute. It is a team approach.
Both parties will sign a Participation Agreement, which is an agreement to voluntarily disclose all financial information as well as other pertinent information that might be necessary to achieve a final settlement. By signing the Participation Agreement, the parties also agree to communicate respectfully with one another and to negotiate in good faith and in a non-adversarial manner.
How Does the Collaborative Process Work?
The parties engage in settlement discussions through a series of settlement meetings with the lawyers and in some cases, with the family and/or financial professional also present. It can be helpful to involve other collaborative professionals depending on the issues in dispute. After each settlement meeting, one of the professionals will prepare progress notes to record any temporary, partial or final agreements. This will make it easier for the lawyers to review the notes when it is time to prepare a written agreement to be signed by the parties. Throughout this process, the parties will receive independent legal advice by their lawyers and when it is time to sign a temporary, partial or final agreement.
Here is a video about the collaborative process in Ontario to further explain the process and its advantages.