What Is Collaborative Divorce?

Your entire life was once intertwined with your spouse, and through the turbulent times of your marriage you worked together to compromise and reach the best outcome for you both. This approach to problem-solving will be helpful throughout the divorce process as well. In fact, Collaborative Family Law is an Alternative Dispute Resolution method entirely rooted around transparency and collaboration. Collaborative Family Law is still a fairly new practice having originated in the American Midwest during the late 1980s. It differs greatly from traditional litigation, which is based around a win-lose approach.

Solving divorce problems collaboratively

Of course, collaborating with your former spouse may sound nice on paper but truthfully there is a lot of emotional pain that comes with ending your marriage which can complicate the matter. Collaborative Family Law does not shy away from providing spouses with the resources and support they need in order to come to an agreeable resolution outside of the courtroom.

We spoke to Jennifer Reynolds of Fresh Legal, an  Ottawa-based, Collaborative family law practice to get first-hand insight into the process.

Jennifer Reynolds, Ottawa Collaborative Divorce lawyer

About Jennifer Reynolds

Since she started work as a lawyer, Jennifer’s goal has been to make the divorce process as simple, stable and painless as possible for her clients. She says the most fulfilling part of her job is knowing that she can be there to help individuals through this very difficult time. As Jennifer puts it “when a couple separates, the family does not; [the Collaborative process] helps you work with your former spouse to rebuild your family in a new way.” She handles the legal details and helps set boundaries for long-term co-parenting so her clients can focus on healing emotionally.

Jennifer will be speaking at Family Dispute Resolution Week on Friday November 25, 2016.

The Collaborative Process

Collaborative divorce relies on having an open, supportive environment in which conflict is minimized and argumentative situations are handled thoughtfully. Information sharing is encouraged so decisions are made in the most informed way possible. Each client has a Collaborative lawyer to represent them and support open dialogue. All parties, including any professionals on the Collaborative team, meet together regularly. The proposed solutions that arise in Collaborative practice take into account both spouses’ interests and needs as well as their legal rights and entitlements.

The Collaborative Commitment

Collaborative Family Law involves a participation agreement that disqualifies each spouse’s Collaborative family lawyers from representing them in court. Should the clients ultimately decide to litigate, they must find new lawyers to represent them. This is sometimes referred to as a “disqualification agreement” or a “collaborative commitment”. Importantly, this commitment motivates spouses to resolve their issues through Collaborative practice and ensures Collaborative lawyers are not incentivized to push their clients towards litigation.  As well, since the process is confidential, nothing said during Collaborative practice can be used in court.

The Collaborative Team

Collaborative practice takes into consideration that a divorce is multidimensional. As Jennifer notes, there is work to be done in terms of both the legal process and paperwork, as well as the difficult emotions that arise as a result of the end of a client’s marriage, and different professionals are needed for each facet of the divorce. Couples may need other services or professionals in order to finalize their separation and take care of their own well-being. These professionals can include therapists, financial advisors and child custody specialists among others. When other professionals get involved, they join the Collaborative team.

Is It Right For Me?

Couples tend to choose the Collaborative process because they understand a non-adversarial method can result in the best outcome for them both. As well, staying out of the courtroom and choosing instead to cooperate and create an agreeable resolution for each spouse lays the foundation for positive communication in the future. Jennifer points out that this is key for clients with children because they will remain involved in one another’s lives to a certain extent.

It helps both spouses feel that their perspectives were accounted for and their needs were addressed in the proceedings so they can move on in a healthy manner without resentment as to who ‘won’ the divorce.

Further  Resources

This approach is not right for everyone. Before deciding on a divorce resolution method, be sure to do your research. Outreach to potential services and take part in several screening calls to decide which approach and which lawyer is right for you.There are many resources which you can use to inform yourself about all your options.

Ontario-Based Resources: