Collaborative law enables couples who have decided to separate or end their marriage to work with their lawyers and other professionals in order to obtain a settlement which best meets the specific needs of both parties and their children outside of Court and without contested litigation.
Collaborative law is a voluntary process initiated when a couple signs a ‘Participation Agreement’, a contract legally binding them to the process and disqualifying their respective lawyers’ right to represent either in any future family-related litigation.
The parties and their collaborative lawyers agree that:
• all concerned will behave courteously and in good faith
• each party will freely disclose all pertinent information and not conceal any facts
• if the settlement process fails, the original lawyers must withdraw and the parties select new lawyers
• neither party will take advantage of mistakes by the other side
• the content matter of the settlement meetings remains confidential
Collaborative law can also be used to facilitate other family issues, such as disputes between parents and the drawing up of pre and post-marital contracts. In the case of the former, many couples prefer to embark on married life by drawing up documents consensually.
Since both lawyers would lose their clients if an agreement was not reached, it is in their interests to encourage them to cooperate and find solutions that honour the concerns of both parties. Other advantages are that it encourages mutual respect, provides for open communication, utilises a problem-solving approach and prepares individuals for their new lives.