Over the last two decades in British Columbia, married and common-law couples in dispute have become increasingly interested in finding alternatives to a traditional court divorce. One available method is collaborative divorce and separation. In this post, we provide you with a snapshot by answering some of the most common questions we’re asked by separating couples.
What Is Collaborative Divorce?
With the collaborative approach, couples agree to work on their post-separation legal issues without going to court. Conflict may exist and interests differ, but the emphasis is on working with rather than against each other.
Which Professionals Are Involved?
One of the greatest appeals of the collaborative approach is that the couple can benefit from an entire support team of divorce-related professionals. Each party retains its own lawyer specially trained in collaborative practice. Depending on the needs, financial experts, communication counselors, child specialists and separation coaches may also help as the couple works together to reach a mutual agreement.
What Are The Benefits Of Collaboration?
In many cases, resolving legal issues out of court can translate into savings on both time and expense. The collaborative approach also puts control over the outcome into the hands of the couple rather than a judge. Many choose this avenue since it provides a less adversarial, more respectful setting. This, in turn, can set the couple on a more solid, positive foundation – especially if they will necessarily continue to have future dealings where children are involved.
Is Collaborative Divorce Suitable For All Couples?
The approach works for married and common-law couples, with children or not. But in all cases, both parties must be committed to participating in the meetings, disclosing the necessary information and working together to generate mutually beneficial resolutions. In some situations, such as where there has been family violence or child abuse, the collaborative approach may not be suitable.
How Does The Process Work?
At the outset, the couple signs a written agreement. This document sets out the ground rules and states the period of time during which the couple agrees to work at a resolution without resorting to court. Any necessary information is disclosed and exchanged and then both parties and their lawyers meet as many times as necessary to discuss the issues.
When the couple reaches an agreement, the lawyers draft a separation agreement and if necessary, a court application is made to obtain an order by consent. If the process fails, the couple can still go to court, but each party must retain a new lawyer. This built-in protection helps all parties vest themselves in reaching a mutually agreeable solution.
Couples interested in exploring the collaborative approach should consult with a lawyer specially trained in Collaborative Practice and in mediation.