Collaborative practice: Resolving family disputes, lessening family acrimony

Collaborative practice: Resolving family disputes, lessening family acrimony


It is a fact of life that relationships break down. When they do disputes often emerge as a couple attempt to address the emotional and financial consequences of that break down.

It is increasingly accepted that the family court is often not the best place for couples to resolve their differences. Many couples do not want to risk key decisions about their family and future being made by a complete stranger nor do they want to have a court dictate the speed at which those issues can be resolved.

What is collaborative practice?

This approach allows a couple to work with specially trained collaborative lawyers in a series of face to face, four way meetings. A couple can decide their own agenda, feel in control of the process and have a direct hand in negotiating an outcome with which they feel comfortable.

The collaborative contract

The couple and their lawyers enter into an agreement which disqualifies the collaborative lawyers from representing them in court if the process is unsuccessful. If court proceedings are issued the couple must be represented by new lawyers. This ensures that those involved in the collaborative process have an equal stake in resolving the couples’ issues.

The couple also agree to behave respectfully towards and to co-operate with each other, and the process. This approach can help maintain cordial relations even after separation, something which is of particular importance to those with children.

Similarities and differences from the conventional court based approach

  • In common with the conventional approach, a couple will each have to provide full and frank disclosure of their financial position so that negotiations can be honest and open.
  • Experts who are familiar with the collaborative process can be instructed to assist the process, for example to value properties or other assets.
  • In contrast to the court based system the collaborative lawyers do not act solely as advocates for their respective clients but can apply their expertise for the benefit of both parties.

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