Collaborative family law is a form of dispute resolution where each spouse is separately represented by a lawyer, and the spouses and their lawyers sign a participation agreement which provides for the following:
- If either party starts contested court proceedings, all of the collaborative professionals (including the lawyers) are disqualified from acting for the parties;
- both parties agree to full and timely disclosure of all relevant information and documents, and agree to good faith negotiations;
- the negotiations are confidential and without prejudice; and
- the negotiations are concluded when the parties come to an agreement, which is put into writing (a separation agreement) by the lawyers and then signed by the parties and witnessed by the lawyers.
All collaborative professionals must be certified in the collaborative process. The process often includes the following professionals:
- Coach, who is a licenced mental health professional whose primary function is to provide emotional support, communication, and conflict resolution between the spouses. This provides for long-term improved communications, with the outcome that the parties are able to resolve their matters on their own in future rather than requiring further legal assistance and litigation. There can be one Coach for both parties or each party may be separately supported by a Coach;
- Child Specialist, who is a licenced mental health professional whose primary function is to provide a voice for the children and ensure that their thoughts, concerns, and needs are heard in the separation process. This is one Child Specialist for all children and this person is referred to as a “neutral”, meaning that he or she has no allegiance or bias for one party over the other. He or she has the primary goal of speaking for the children;
- Financial Specialist, who is a certified financial professional whose primary function is to help the spouses analyze their financial, business, and tax situation and plans for the future. The intention is to help the parties make the most out of their settlement and settle on financial terms that are the most advantageous to both spouses. The Financial Specialist is a neutral;
- Collaborative Lawyer, who is a member in good standing of the Law Society of BC and assists their client by providing legal advice, supporting and facilitating negotiation and communication, and ensuring that their client’s legal interests are protected.
There is a myth that Collaborative Family Law is more expensive than negotiation and litigation because of the involvement of all of the experts. The process is designed so that the action taken by each of the experts is not duplicated by the others, but rather each of the experts address a particular issue in their respective areas of expertise. In addition, it is often possible to submit the expenses from the Coach and/or Child Specialist to one’s extended health benefits as it is an invoice from a registered clinical counsellor, psychologist or social worker. Furthermore, the hourly rates charged by the non-lawyer specialists are often less than the rates charged by the lawyers.
Collaborative Family Law encourages and facilitates negotiations that are respectful and constructive. This process is often more supportive of everyone involved, including the children.
If you would like to book an appointment with our Collaborative Family Law lawyer, Kathleen Sugiyama, please contact Heath Law LLP at 250-753-2202 or TOLL FREE: 1-866-753-2202.