Judith Holzman, a family lawyer in Toronto and York Region, answers: Collaborative family law is a specialized version of family-law practice that uses specially trained divorce lawyers (who often have both mediation and collaborative-law training in addition to family-law experience).
These divorce lawyers sign an agreement together with their clients that calls for frankness, full disclosure, and appropriate behavior in a negotiation of their separation agreement.
Should either of the parties decide that they no longer want to pursue a collaborative resolution, then the agreement ends, and the parties must find new divorce lawyers, as their original collaborative family lawyers can no longer act for them.
While collaborative family law is not for everyone, even parties who do not like each other — as long as they approach issues placing their children first or are prepared to be respectful of each other — will benefit from a collaborative resolution.
In a collaborative meeting, both family lawyers (while representing their individual clients) make sure that each of the parties is engaged and active in their participation. The weaker spouse receives a buttress by the conduct of all four people at the table, which is inclusive of attitude, respectful in tone, and creative in resolution. The process often results in an “outside the box” resolution that allows for a customized result that works for these particular people and their families.
The resolutions are faster, cheaper, and more customized than the normal resolution in a classic divorce situation.
Judith Holzman is a collaboratively trained family lawyer who has practiced for over 33 years in the Toronto and York Region area. She has participated in amendments to the Family Law Act (provincial) and the Divorce Act (federal) in the area of religious divorce.