Collaborative Law. The Respectful Resolution Process

More than half of marriages and relationships end in divorce or separation. Ending a relationship is invariably stressful for not only the couple but also the children.

A Different Approach

By taking a different approach to resolving family law disputes – a collaborative approach – the entire family can benefit by being in control, reducing conflict, and avoiding court. Through the collaborative process, you and your partner can resolve your separation issues fairly and with dignity and respect. This will more likely result in a better long-term relationship.

The Leading Association

Queensland Association of Collaborative Practitioners (QACP) is the leading association for collaboratively-trained professionals in Queensland. The association is growing quickly with more than 100 members and works to promote collaborative practice as a viable alternative to resolving family law disputes without litigation.

Separating Couples Working Together

In collaborative practice, separating couples work together with their respective collaborative lawyers and other collaborative professionals to resolve all issues without the intervention of the court. Working together, the collaborative team reach a mutually acceptable settlement agreement ensuring all financial, emotional and other issues are worked through for the benefit of the whole family.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is collaborative practice?

Collaborative practice is an innovative and alternative approach to resolving disputes. If you use the collaborative process, you will work with your lawyer and ex-partner in a co-operative open way to reach a fair settlement.

In the first instance you and your ex-partner and your respective lawyers sign a Participation Agreement which sets the structure within which the negotiations will be conducted. By signing a Participation Agreement you are demonstrating your commitment to resolving your differences in a respectful manner and without court proceedings.

Why should I consider collaborative practice?

The underlying principles of collaborative practice are to reach agreement through open negotiations while minimising the apprehension and worry that often surrounds the discussion of issues regarding your children’s future and your financial, parental and relationship futures.

Your collaborative lawyer brings with them their skills and expertise in problem solving and negotiating and works with you to reach a solution.

All negotiations are conducted in your presence and so you and your spouse or partner retain full control of your negotiations.

How is collaborative practice different from traditional court proceedings?

Through court proceedings or litigation to resolve a family law case, you would go through a sequence of court conferences and hearings. This can take many months or most likely years before you have a final trial where a Judge would make a decision as to how your dispute will be resolved.

Through collaborative practice, you, your ex-partner and your respective lawyers work together, sometimes with other professionals such as valuers, accountants and child experts, to find out what each party wants and how that can be achieved. The court is not involved in this process and no documents are filed with the court whilst the negotiations are ongoing. Once you have reached an agreement, you can choose to send that agreement to the court to be made into an order.

Do we ever go to court?

No. Not if you are able to reach agreement through the collaborative process.

If you are able to reach agreement through the collaborative practice process then that agreement can be made into a Court Order or Binding Financial Agreement. If you would like the agreement made into a Court Order the paperwork is sent to the court, but it is not necessary for you to actually attend court.

If you are unable to reach an agreement through the collaborative process then it may be necessary for you to commence court proceedings.

How do you go about working toward a settlement?

In the collaborative process, you and your lawyers communicate with each other through face-to-face meetings as well as telephone conference calls and minimal written correspondence.

In four-way meetings, you all sit down together and identify each party’s issues, concerns and goals and look at ways to shape those into an agreement. These meetings are conducted in an open manner where you all voluntarily provide full and frank disclosure of your position and provide any documents necessary to confirm your position.

What happens if one party is dishonest in some way, or misuses the process to take advantage of the other party?

By signing the Participation Agreement all parties are agreeing to behave in a respectful manner towards the other. You are also agreeing to be open and honest about your position and provide any documents necessary to confirm that position. If there is doubt as to the truth and accuracy of information then your lawyer can request documentation from an outside party to corroborate what the other party has said. By entering into the collaborative process you generally accept that you will reach a negotiated settlement quicker if you are open and honest.

What happens if we hit an obstacle to settlement?

If you cannot reach agreement, then depending on the issue preventing agreement, we would first seek the assistance of an outside professional such as a child expert, accountant or valuer to assist with resolving the issues.

If, despite the best endeavours of the parties, lawyers and the experts, you still cannot reach an agreement and going to court is the only alternative, then the lawyers and the experts must withdraw from the case.

Your collaborative lawyer will be able to refer you to a lawyer to conduct your case in court for you, but your collaborative lawyer can never represent you in court. They also cannot be witnesses in your court case. The same rules apply to the collaborative experts.

What is the difference between collaborative law and mediation?

Mediation involves an independent neutral professional who facilitates discussions between the parties and helps you to reach an agreement. The mediator does not provide legal advice to either party during the discussions.

In collaborative practice, your lawyer provides you with advice helps you assess realistic options. The lawyers then support you through the negotiation process to reach an agreement.

Can we trust that our lawyers won’t just take our case to court eventually?

Yes. It is a fundamental principle of the Participation Agreement that if the parties involved in the collaborative process are unable to reach an agreement then the lawyers who have been representing those clients must withdraw from the case when the collaborative process is brought to an end and court proceedings are to be commenced. Because neither party can use the threat of commencing court proceedings everyone remains focused on negotiating a settlement.

What Is Collaborative Law?

Collaborative law is a form of dispute resolution used by married, de facto or same sex couples when separating. In collaborative law, each partner works with a collaboratively-trained lawyer to co-operatively resolve their legal, financial and emotional issues after separating without going to court.

Collaborative law is a form of dispute resolution used by married, de facto or same sex couples when separating. In collaborative law, each partner works with a collaboratively-trained lawyer to co-operatively resolve their legal, financial and emotional issues after separating without going to court.

Unlike other forms of dispute resolution like litigation in court, collaborative practice focusses on resolving family law disputes with minimal conflict. Focussing on problem-solving to reach a mutually acceptable settlement without court proceedings, the collaborative process uses other professionals such as accountants, financial advisers, mediators and psychologists to provide professional advice. This provides many benefits to the couple and the children involved.

The collaborative process offers a way to resolve separation disagreements with dignity and respect. The collaborative lawyers work together to shape an agreement making considered decisions for the benefit of the family as a whole.

What Are The Benefits Of Collaborative Law?

Couples choosing to resolve their differences using the collaborative process benefit in many immediate and long-term ways. Working through the collaborative process, each partner:

  • minimises immediate and on-going conflict
  • has better control of the separation process
  • maintains a level of dignity, respect and privacy
  • avoids court proceedings
  • knows their children’s needs are given priority
  • knows their solution is tailored, it is not one size fits all
  • is more likely to have a better long-term relationship with their ex-partner
  • will obtain a fairer settlement, incorporating where possible, each partner’s needs, interests and objectives
  • has an alternative to litigation without the associated costs, delays and emotional hardship
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