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What is collaborative law and why should you choose it?

October 17, 2017

Collaborative law is a process that focuses directly on assisting parties to deal with a marital or de facto separation without resorting to litigation. Unlike court proceedings, the Collaborative Law process is parent and child friendly. It can help you and your former partner maintain a healthy relationship, notwithstanding your separation. The collaborative process focuses on finding solutions to the issues at hand, and helps parties agree an outcome which will be best for the family unit, rather than looking at individual entitlements.

Who is involved?

Each party will be represented by a Family Law solicitor. In addition to this, other professionals might be involved to offer advice on emotional or financial matters. For example, your lawyer may consult with an accountant, financial adviser, mediator or psychologist during the collaborative law process. The other professionals involved are referred to as “neutrals”.

What it can be used for

Collaborative law can be used to address a wide range of family issues, including disputes between parents, division of assets, child support and spousal maintenance. If you’re not sure whether collaborative law will be suitable for your situation, ask a family lawyer who has training in the area.

How does it work?

In a nutshell, collaborative law is a process where parties and their solicitors commit themselves to resolving a matter without resorting to litigation. In using the collaborative law process, the parties have full responsibility and control for the agreements reached and settlements achieved. This is unlike the present Court system, where the responsibility for solving issues in disputes lies with the Court.

The process can be described as follows:

  1. Each party is represented by a specially trained collaborative lawyer;
  2. The solicitors are retained pursuant to a contract or participation agreement;
  3. Professional consultants are engaged to work together to focus on not just reaching a quick fix settlement, but on laying a foundation for optimum communications and problem solving, during the period of rapid change the parties and their children can experience after separation;
  4. The clients retain their right to terminate the collaborative law process and to take their issues to Court, but the solicitors and other collaborative experts or specialist professionals cannot go with them;
  5. Information is shared fully and freely upon request. Hence, the suspicion and paranoia usually attached to family law matters drop dramatically from what is normally experienced in litigation;
  6. All negotiations take place directly, face to face, in “four way” settlement meetings. The solicitors do not bargain as agents in the absence of their clients. Interest-based negotiations are the preferred mode, not positional bargaining; and
  7. Following each “four way” meeting, the solicitors “debrief” to discuss the events of the meeting and the progress made.

Collaborative law offers a way to resolve your disagreements respectfully and with dignity. The process is private and confidential, and it encourages open and honest communication. You retain control of the speed and cost of your separation proceedings, and the overall process is likely to be less stressful than going to court.

If you’re considering collaborative law, it’s important to work with the right legal advice. Paterson & Dowding is a well-established law firm based in Perth, with a commitment to getting the best outcome for their clients. They have their own team of trained Collaborative Lawyers and Family Law Solicitors, and a wealth of experience on parenting matters, divorce, family dispute resolution and more. To find out whether collaborative law could be right for you, call Paterson & Dowding on 08 9226 3300 or visit www.patersondowding.com.au

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