Collaborative law: an alternative way to handle divorce

by Peter Magee on December 11, 2011

Peter MageeDo you want to retain as much control as possible over your Property Settlement? Are you able to communicate and be in close proximity with your estranged spouse/partner? Perhaps you could consider engaging the services of lawyers who practice Collaborative Law. Collaborative Law is distinct from the traditional approach to property settlements adopted by lawyers. The hallmark of Collaborative Law is that clients and their lawyers meet together as a group to discuss and work out how the property is going to be divided in a Property Settlement between a husband and wife or between 2 de-facto partners. Clients and their lawyers sign what is referred to as a Participation Agreement, which is based on the principles of mutual respect, goodwill and working together to reach a settlement. It is important to know that if the property Settlement is not resolved through the Collaborative Law process, the lawyers must cease to act and cannot represent their clients in Court. This is one key reason why Collaborative Law encourages the needs of both parties being met, as opposed to the rights and interests of the client, which dominates the domain of litigation and the traditional approach to dividing property in Family Law Property Settlements.

An example of Collaborative Law is that lawyers and their clients i.e. the husband and his lawyer and the wife and her lawyer, conduct meetings together to disclose their respective financial information such as income, balances in bank accounts, values of Superannuation and other assets and debts. This is in stark contrast to the traditional approach to dividing property in family Law Property Settlements, where lawyers send letters back and forth requesting the ‘opposing’ party’s financial information. One could say that Collaborative Law is much more open than the traditional approach to Property Settlement. Another key element of Collaborative Law is that neutral third parties are involved who assist the clients to reach agreement on the division of property. For example, neutral financial planners are often involved to help, (i.e. to help the husband and wife), work out what their needs are for the future. This can be useful to tailor the Property Settlement to meet their needs, rather than their rights.

Many say that Collaborative Law sets the stage for future communication and co-operation. This is valuable if there are children involved, as separated parents will need to communicate with each other about the children and essentially will remain a part of each others’ lives. It is often the children who suffer the most when their parents separate and go through a family law Property Settlement. Perhaps Collaborative Law can help in maintaining separated parents’ relationships with each other for the benefit of their children. If you think you can communicate clearly and be in close proximity with your estranged spouse or partner (i.e. sit across the table from and have in-depth discussions and negotiations with them), you might be interested in Collaborative Law to resolve your Property Settlement.

For legal advice from experienced family lawyers who are qualified Collaborative Law practitioners, please do not hesitate to contact us on 02 6288 1100 to make a without obligation first conference.

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