“Can collaborative law help me to settle my divorce more amicably? How is it different from mediation?”
Collaborative law certainly can settle your divorce more amicably. It is an exciting new alternative in which a specially trained lawyer represents each spouse. The sole purpose of collaborative family law is to resolve all of the issues that arise from a divorce — such as property division, child and spousal support, and parenting arrangements — by using positive, creative problem-solving methods and without resorting to litigation or court proceedings, a commitment that both parties and their lawyers make at the very beginning of the process.
In the collaborative process, each party gets legal advice and counsel from their own collaborative lawyer all through the process, as well as guidance in negotiations and conflict management. The process emphasizes meeting the needs of you, your spouse, and your children in a manner that is both reasonable and respectful of everybody’s needs. The cost to each party is substantially less than that of litigation, and family-law matters that are decided using the collaborative-law process generally are resolved much faster: in months instead of years.
In mediation, the parties meet with a mediator, who acts as a neutral person to assist them to resolve the issues that arise on separation. If the mediator is a lawyer, he or she cannot give legal advice to the parties in mediation. Each party is strongly encouraged to retain their own lawyer. The lawyer’s job is to provide his or her client with independent legal advice, so that the client is giving informed consent. However, not having been a part of how the parties reached the consensual resolution, it is often difficult for even the most conscientious lawyer to provide counsel and frequently, the resolution reached in the mediation unravels.
Nancy E. Macivor, B.A.R.N., LL.B has been practicing family law in Richmond Hill, ON for over ten years. She has been practicing collaborative family law since 2001.