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What is Collaborative Family Law?

Statistics show that the national rate of divorce is slowly increasing in Australia, and most of us now know at least one person who has been through a divorce. With the potential to end up in years of litigation in the Family Court of Australia, costs increasing to hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the emotion inflicted on all parties involved, many proactive solicitors and practitioners in the field are looking to alternate dispute resolution processes to avoid the stress, the cost and the headache that is family law system. Cue Collaborative Law.

Collaborative Law, or Collaborative Practice, is a process that sees clients engage a lawyer with the sole purpose of working together to resolve a dispute without going to court. The aim is to reach a resolution to reduce cost, delay and stress.

How does it all work?

After each client agrees to participate in the Collaborative Practice, the clients meet with their own lawyers individually to identify the issues that are important to them, and potential ways to achieve an outcome preferable to all parties. The aim is to come up with something that works for the parties, and not be dictated by the realms of the Family Court or the Family Law Act.

After this initial meeting, all participants (lawyers and clients) meet to discuss the desired goals and pathways to resolution. It may also be necessary to call upon the expertise of other professionals such as counsellors, financial planners, accountants, and the like. All of these professionals collaborate in an attempt to come to a resolution for the parties.

In an atmosphere that is focussed on a positive resolution for all parties, where all participants are open and honest, you will be encouraged to work together to find solutions and ultimately, a settlement that benefits everyone. 

Why the Collaborative Process?

Collaborative Practice promotes an outcome that works. You will rarely be discussing percentages and entitlements, but instead be discussing your needs, your concerns and how to reach a desired outcome. You are the driver in this process, not your lawyer and most importantly, not the Family Law Court.

Each matter is monitored by a Collaborative Coach independent of each party and their lawyer. The role of the Coach is to facilitate and lead the discussions in an open and collaborative way. They ensure that each 5-way meeting (2 lawyers, 2 clients, 1 coach) is as productive as possible, and is outcome-driven.

Each professional participant is collaboratively trained. This means that every professional within the process has undergone training to create an atmosphere of open and honest discussions. Each professional has the same goal – to have two clients leave the family law process in the easiest way possible. Each lawyer will advise their client in the open forum. There are no secret sneaky dealings, just forward-thinking and focussed discussions.

At the end of a collaborative matter, one of two things will happen – if the parties fail to collaborate, then all professionals must withdraw from the process and the parties must engage alternate representation, or, the parties will leave with a legally-binding document, approved by the Family Court, which formalises their collaborative agreement. It’s that simple.

Can I Collaborate?

You don’t have to be friends to collaborate. Let’s face it, that’s probably one of the reasons why you are seeing a family law lawyer to begin with. What you do need is a common desire to resolve a dispute in a way which avoids the delays, the costs and the stress of the Family Court. You need to think about what you want and why you want it and come up with different ways as to how you will achieve it. Your collaborative professionals will do the rest.

If you are thinking about going through a family law separation, please contact our Family Law Team on (02) 9521 6000 to have a discussion with our collaboratively-trained solicitors about starting the process today.