How Collaborative Family Law Can Be the Best Way to Settle Your Family Law Case
Separation and divorce isn’t always as stressful and acrimonious as it’s often made out to be. In some cases, the spouses both realize that, for whatever reasons, the relationship just isn’t working and they need to separate and divorce to get on with their lives. In other cases, while there may be differences between the spouses, they just want to settle their disputes without the cost, stress and length of time of having the Courts do so.
Collaborative Family Law
Alternatives for settling divorces without litigation are called Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) options. ADR may include Mediation, Arbitration, Mediation-Arbitration (Med-Arb) and Collaborative Family Law.
In Mediation, the spouses jointly select and retain a neutral third party (mediator) to help them find common ground and suggest solutions where they have difficulty reaching an agreement.
The Arbitration process is similar to Court, except the spouses jointly select and retain an arbitrator who will hear evidence from both of them before making a decision.
If the disputes between spouses are more involved or difficult to resolve, but both parties still want to settle their differences in a cooperative way, Collaborative Family Law can still help them avoid going to Court.
In Collaborative Family Law (CFL), each party retains a lawyer for advice and representation throughout the process, and both parties must sign a participation agreement that they are dedicated to working together to settle the outstanding issues in the divorce in a collaborative way.
To help settle particular disputes, including the detailed terms of child custody and parenting arrangements, valuation and division of property, sales or transfers of businesses, and determining how to invest funds after the separation, jointly-retained professional advisors specializing in the area of dispute may be called in as needed.
The CFL process generally involves meetings between the spouses, their lawyers and any third-party advisors retained to help settle particular disputes. The goal of the meetings is to present the two sides of any issues and seek a consensus for settlement terms that are acceptable to both spouses. The presence of lawyers and advisors not only helps each spouse protect their legal rights, but they may also be presented with creative ways to solve their differences that they may not have considered otherwise.
All decisions to settle disputes are ultimately made by the spouses after consideration of the advice and/or findings of their lawyers and any specialists involved. In that way, CFL gives each of the spouses greater control and decision-making power in the separation and divorce proceedings.
If one or both spouses are not satisfied with how one or more disputes are settled through the CFL process, they still have the option to take the case to Family Court. According to the provisions of CFL agreements, if the spouses decide to use the Family Court, they each must retain new lawyers for the Court proceedings. This presents an additional incentive for the spouses to remain in the CFL process and to negotiate in good faith.
The Benefits of Collaborative Family Law
Personal Issues Remain Private
It is important to note that when spouses use the Family Court to resolve their dispute, they lose privacy. The documents filed in the Court office may be accessed by others and only in very rare circumstances may they be sealed. This means that sensitive personal and business information may be filed in the Court. When a judge renders a decision, it may become reported and even available on internet websites that report on cases. Therefore, the CFL process involves complete privacy as the spouses retain their respective lawyers and together retain only those professionals that this wish to have involved in the negotiations and who will keep their information confidential.
While many of the disputes settled through CFL may be contentious, the commitment of all the parties and lawyers to collaborate and find consensus reduces the stress of the often aggressive and acrimonious means of settling disputes in courts.
Faster and Less Costly
Without the need for a number of court appearances and the preparation and attendance time they involve, the creation and review of the required documentation and formalities the Court process, CFL often means a quicker, less costly resolution of a separation agreement or divorce.
Settlements are More Personal
Since the spouses orchestrate their own settlement into a Separation Agreement, the outcome is more likely to be more specific to the spouses and their family and meet the satisfaction of both spouses than if it was decided by the Court.
Onus on Lawyers to Find Resolution
If the spouses cannot resolve their differences through CFL and one or both choose to take the case to court, both spouses must retain new lawyers for the court case. That means the lawyers in a CFL case have a vested interest in ensuring that both parties are satisfied with the settlements.
To learn more about if Collaborative Family Law can work for your separation or divorce, please contact us to schedule a consultation at Williams Family Law.