Collaborative Family Law in Alberta
What is Collaborative Family Law?
Dispute resolution in family matters can be both emotionally and financially stressful for all parties involved, especially when one or both parties are hesitant about going through court processes and the effect it may have on the outcome of their divorce matter.
Collaborative Family Law was introduced into the legal system as a response to the growing dismay with the drawbacks of litigation and its adversarial nature as it relates to helping families resolve disputes. A senior family lawyer in Minneapolis founded a valuable alternative called Collaborative Law which spread across the United States and eventually into Canada. It is now widely recognized in Alberta as a low-cost alternative to high stress or highly contentious divorces.
What is the objective of Collaborative Family Law?
The main basis of Collaborative Family Law is the common understanding between both parties and their respective lawyers that they will resolve their matters without the threat of going to court and that the spirit of compassion and integrity remains as an overarching goal in an effort to produce a “good divorce”. A “good divorce” in this situation refers to legally enforceable divorce related agreements between both parties that are achieved in a timely and amicable matter. This offers a more affordable solution that preserves the social and emotional well-being of the family members involved while avoiding a potentially stressful and costly litigation process that may not serve either party’s interests in the long-term.
How does the Collaborative Family Law Process work?
In Collaborative Family Law – the first step remains in finalizing the Participation Agreement. The Participation Agreement is a document that outlines a set of terms and processes where all parties commit to the Collaborative Law process and its principles. Parties commit to full disclosure and a complete exchange of information to ensure a fair and objective negotiation. This helps provide a proper examination on both parties’ individual and common interests. With the help and guidance of Collaborative family lawyers, each party will be guided on what’s considered reasonable. There will also be an emphasis on approaching the other party with empathy and understanding regarding their respective concerns. Only if necessary, outside experts may be jointly retained with the mutual agreement of both parties. Such expertise could range from accountants, independent evaluators, therapists, etc. to help aid the participants throughout the process.
To ensure the commitment to an out-of-court process is the primary objective and to avoid any conflicts. If one of the parties ultimately decides to enter Court proceedings, then the respective collaborative family lawyers for each party resign. Their withdrawal ensures no further renumeration on the case and both parties have to seek new counsel to support the litigation process. Unless mutually agreed to by the parties, any experts retained during the Collaborative Family Law process cannot be used during the court proceedings.
These principles foster an open and constructive environment for collaborative negotiations so both parties can trust they are undertaken in good faith and both their best interests are placed as joint priority.
The emergence and rapid growth of Collaborative Family Law is motivated by the high demand from families seeking a more productive, private and dignified way of resolving emotionally-charged disputes while supported by a neutral framework including qualified legal expertise. It provides an environment where both parties and their lawyers can keep their priorities intact while tabling their independent and common interests in order to find a solution amenable to the entire family.
What are the benefits of Collaborative Family Law?
The benefits to clients in the collaborative process typically include reduced expense and faster results with respect to setting forth terms regarding division of assets, financial matters and child custody matters. The Collaborative Family Law process also fosters a spirit of openness and cooperation that generally leads to a commitment to a constructive negotiation environment. Typically, there is less posturing and showmanship than you would typically find in a traditional family law negotiation with the threat of Court proceedings looming overhead.
The process typically involves a series of face-to-face meetings between the parties with their collaborative family lawyers present. By being present and engaged, the party has a lot more control and involvement in the process which contrasts greatly with what one typically feels in Court proceedings.
This presents the client with a growth opportunity to role model in cases where children are involved, taking personal responsibility and benefiting from a face-to-face collaborative process. It also avoids putting the outcome into the hands of a Judge who despite being well-trained is still a stranger to the personal family dynamics and individual situations of both participants.
What role does the lawyer play in a Collaborative Family Law process?
The main role of a retained collaborative family law lawyer is to provide expert advice regarding an out-of-court resolution that is negotiated in good faith with mutually-agreeable outcomes and terms. Collaborative Family Law processes are not immune to highly-charged emotions and differing viewpoints so a well-trained Collaborative Family Law lawyer is equipped to understand both sides and steer all parties accordingly. Registered Collaborative Family Law practitioners in Alberta have mandatory training which includes mediation, interest-based negotiations and Collaborative Family Law. Their primary objective is to steer all parties in reaching an amicable settlement.
A common misperception is whether a client’s personal needs will be prioritized. Each collaborate family law lawyer will help identify their party’s interests and aim to reach an agreement that satisfies these interests alongside the other parties (i.e. win-win solutions, where possible). Although the broader objectives of both parties and their lawyers are to work collaboratively as a team, each lawyer’s foremost duty is to their client offering guidance on what’s reasonably expected under the circumstances.
There are a suite of resolution options that may be identified by the parties in conjunction with their family lawyers and the final agreement will capture solutions deemed mutually acceptable by both parties. The cornerstone to the process is a respective environment that maintains the dignity of both parties involved and strives to have each party understand the other’s concerns. Ultimately this leads to increased satisfaction with a final and fair outcome.
How Children Can Benefit From Collaborative Family Law
Collaborative Family Law may be an especially attractive alternative when the relationship involves children as it provides a chance to separate in an amicable fashion and demonstrate to the children how it was handled the least adversarial way. More importantly, this pathway helps both parties prioritize and provide for their most prized common interest- their children. There are numerous statistics that outline the emotional effect and toll divorces can have on children – and ending your divorce in an amicable and respectful way may reduce the emotional impact on children as opposed to lawn drawn out battles in the courtroom.
Should I consider the Collaborative Family Law process?
Divorce is already difficult enough for not just the partners involved but their families as well. Removing the additional stress of a courtroom process is typically recommended so long as both parties have a willingness to embark on the process in good faith.
Avoiding the rigid formula-driven framework of the Courts, also provides a greater degree of flexibility to identify creative win-win solutions for both parties involved. Both you and the other party will feel a larger degree of control over the process than what might be available to you in traditional Court proceedings. You will still benefit from having legally-trained experts steering you through the process and handling expectation management on both sides.
A Collaborative Family Law process is an attractive pathway to achieve timely and affordable results between two parties committed to the process. The length of time is dictated by the willingness of both parties to support the process as the timing, location and frequency of meetings are determined with mutual agreement of all parties.
If you are interested in handling the issues stemming from your divorce through Collaborative Family Law you will likely save significant time and money while mitigating emotional harm to family and loved ones. If you reside in the Province of Alberta – then we strongly recommend you hire an Alberta based or Edmonton Collaborative Family Law lawyer today to review your case to see if Collaborative Family Law may be an option for you. Contact us for a consultation today by calling 587-410-2500 and speak directly with an Edmonton divorce lawyer regarding your family law matter.
Contact Our Edmonton Collaborative Family Law lawyers
At Verhaeghe Law Office – our Edmonton Collaborative Family Law lawyers have helped numerous clients with their Collaborative Family Law matters for many years. We take pride in the fact that we aim to resolve your family law disputes in a timely and cost-effective matter. Contact us for a consultation today by calling 587-410-2500 and speak directly with an Edmonton divorce lawyer regarding your family law matter.
For more information, please contact Renn Spence, a Registered Collaborative Family Law Lawyer by clicking here or by calling Renn directly at 587-409-5064, email Renn@freedomlaw.ca
*Please note the content in this blog does not constitute legal advice as every case is unique from one another. We encourage you to seek legal advice for answers related to your divorce and/or family law questions.