Collaborative Divorce? Divorce Lawyers Collaborating? What is Collaborative Divorce?
I was at a social event the other night when someone overheard me say Collaborative Divorce. I was met with inquisitive facial expressions. Divorce lawyers? Collaborating? What is this Collaborative Divorce stuff? It seems the idea of divorce lawyers working together was quite amusing to them.
The Collaborative Divorce process began in the United States by a lawyer by the name of Stuart Webb that was burned out and tired of fighting the fight. He and many others had long recognized that courtrooms were not the best place for families to resolve their disputes. The long, costly and agonizing process of divorce had taken its toll, not only on the families going through a divorce but on the lawyers representing them as well. So Steve developed an approach that has gained momentum across the United States, Europe, Australia and Canada.
The Association of Collaborative Lawyers of Alberta defines Collaborative Divorce as:
“A respectful process for resolving conflict with the help of specially trained lawyers and other professionals, without going to court. Each spouse is represented by his or her own lawyer from start to finish, with the additional support of mental health and financial professionals as required. The spouse and professionals work cooperatively to focus on the problems, gather the necessary information needed and brainstorm together in face-to-face meetings. The goal is to create as many options as possible to reach a solution that is win-win for both spouses.”
The benefits of Collaborative Divorce are:
Self-Determination: The clients themselves decide what their specific resolution will look like. Decisions are not imposed on them by a third party (i.e. the judge).
Private: The entire process occurs in the privacy of meeting rooms, not in the public realm of a courthouse.
Maintain Control: The clients and lawyers decide how often and how long to meet based on everyone’s schedule.
Present and Future focus: Collaborative Divorce also differs from the traditional litigated divorce in that it stays focused on the present with a view to the future. The focus is on solving the issues that are here now, not going into the past and into the blame and shame game of trying to figure out who did what and when.
Team Approach: if needed, other professionals such as child specialists, financial specialists and divorce coaches may be mutually agreed upon and brought into the process.
There are many paths that all lead to the destination of divorce, make sure you are on the one that is best for you and your children. Research has shown that it’s not the divorce itself that inflicts emotional damage on children, but rather how the parents handle the conflict between them and how much the children are exposed. While you have decided to end your marriage and start a new life, what better time to demonstrate to your children your love for them than by navigating your way through your divorce in a manner that demonstrates respect for each other and commitment to your continued role as parents to your children.
Deanna Koebernick, B.Sc.Ag., LLB. Q.Med., Collaborative Family Lawyer & Mediator, Edmonton