Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is Collaborative Family Law?

A: Collaborative law is the newest dispute-resolution model for separated couples. In CFL, both parties retain separate, specially trained lawyers whose only job is to help them settle the case. All participants agree to work together respectfully, honestly, and in good faith to try to find win-win solutions to the legitimate needs of both parties. Four creative minds work together to devise individualised settlement scenarios. No one may go to court, or even threaten to do so, and if that should occur, the collaborative law process terminates and both lawyers are disqualified from any further involvement in the case. Lawyers hired for a collaborative law representation can never under any circumstances go to court for the clients who retained them.

Q: How is CFL different from the traditional adversarial process?

A:

  • In collaborative law, the parties and the lawyers sign a Participation Agreement in which they contract to negotiate in a principled manner.
  • In collaborative law, both parties insulate their children from their disputes and, should custody be an issue, the parties will jointly agree to whatever process will provide them with information as to what is in the best interest of the children.
  • In collaborative law, a respectful, creative effort to meet the legitimate needs of both spouses replaces tactical bargaining backed by threats of litigation.
  • In collaborative law, all participate in an open, honest exchange of information. Neither party takes advantage of the miscalculations or mistakes of the others, but instead identifies and corrects them.
  • In collaborative law, the lawyers must guide the process to settlement or withdraw from further participation, unlike adversarial lawyers, who remain involved whether the case is settled or is tried.
  • Both parties in collaborative law use joint accountants, mental health consultants, appraisers, and other consultants, as necessary, instead of adversarial experts.
Q: Is CFL cheaper and faster than court?

A: Generally it is considerably less expensive to resolve family law issues by way of a negotiated agreement than through court. That said, CFL isn't "cheap". Like anything else involving highly trained professionals, the lawyers who will be working for you and with you will be charging an hourly rate for their time, and that rate is not "cheap". However, they won't be spending their time (and your money) on preparing lengthy court documents and filings, waiting in court, or trying to convince a judge that you are right. Instead, they will be working on and managing the negotiations, getting you focussed on your needs and wants, reviewing your legal rights and crunching numbers, and building an agreement piece by piece.

Our experience is that the process is much faster than court. The parties and the lawyers can, subject to everyone's schedules and comfort level, move the matter along quite quickly. Most people find significant value in getting through this difficult process in a timely way and then getting on with their lives.

Q: Why is CFL such an effective settlement process?

A: Because collaborative lawyers have a completely different state of mind about what their job is than traditional lawyers generally bring to their work. We call it a "paradigm shift." Instead of being dedicated to getting the largest possible piece of the pie for their own client, no matter the human or financial cost, collaborative lawyers are dedicated to helping their clients achieve their highest intentions for themselves in their post-separation restructured families.

Collaborative lawyers do not act as " hired guns"; nor do they take advantage of mistakes inadvertently made by the other side; nor do they threaten, or insult, or focus on the negative either in their own client or on the other side.

Collaborative lawyers expect and encourage the highest good-faith problem-solving behaviour from their clients and themselves, and they stake their own professional integrity on delivering that in any collaborative representation in which they participate.

Collaborative lawyers trust one another. They still owe a primary allegiance and duty to their own clients, within all the mandates of professional responsibility, but they know that the only way they can serve the true best interests of their clients is to behave with, and demand, the highest integrity from themselves, their clients, and the other participants in the collaborative process.

Collaborative law offers a greater potential for creative problem solving than does either mediation or litigation, in that only collaborative law puts two lawyers in the same room pulling in the same direction with both clients to solve the same list of problems. Lawyers excel at solving problems, but in conventional litigation they generally pull in opposite directions.

No matter how good the lawyers may be for their own clients, they cannot succeed as Collaborative lawyers unless they also can find solutions to the other party's problems that both clients find satisfactory. This is the special characteristic of collaborative law that is found in no other dispute resolution process.

Q: Why is it so important to sign on formally to the official Collaborative Law Participation Agreement? Why can't you work collaboratively with the other lawyer but still go to Court if the process doesn't work?

A: The special power that the CFL has to spark creative conflict resolution seems to happen only when the lawyers and the clients are all pulling together in the same direction, to solve the same problems in the same way. If the lawyers can still consider unilateral resort to the Court as a fallback option, their thought processes do not become transformed; their creativity is actually crippled by the availability of Court and conventional trials. Only when everyone knows that it is up to the four of them and only the four of them to think their way to a solution, or else the process fails and the lawyers are out of the picture, does the special "hypercreativity" of collaborative law get triggered. The moment when each person realizes that solving both clients' problems is the responsibility of all four participants is the moment when the magic can happen.

Collaborative law is not just two lawyers who like each other, or who agree to "behave nicely." It is a special technique that demands special talents and procedures in order to work as promised.

Any effort by parties and their lawyers to resolve disputes cooperatively and outside Court is to be encouraged, but only collaborative law is collaborative law.

Q: How do I enlist my spouse in the process?

A: Talk with your spouse, and see whether there is a shared commitment to a collaborative win-win conflict resolution. Share materials with your spouse such as this website and articles that discuss collaborative law. Encourage your spouse to select a counsel who has experience and training in collaborative law and who works effectively with your own lawyer; lawyers who trust one another are an excellent predictor of success in dispute resolution.

Q: Where do I get more information?

A: We invite you to contact any of the CFL Lawyers on our Nipissing panel; you can visit our LINKS page (under More Information) to explore other websites from other groups in Ontario and Canada.

You can find out more about the individual lawyers on our Nipissing panel by visiting the FIND A LAWYER page. Feel free to send any of us an email or give us a call. We would welcome an opportunity to speak to you about this option for settling your family law issues.

Q: Why should I choose Collaborative Family Law?

A: By choosing Collaborative Family Law, you ensure that the arrangement reached between you and your spouse will be designed by you, with the guidance and legal advice of your CFL lawyers.

You will be able to achieve a settlement in as dignified, respectful, creative and cost effective manner as possible.

Collaborative Family Law provides an opportunity for you to maintain the integrity of your family even though you do not wish to remain spouses.