This involves a series of four-way meetings (spouses, each with their lawyer) to work out a settlement and the terms of a written agreement. Outside experts such as financial advisers, pension and property valuators, family relations and child care specialists, etc., may be involved where necessary for their expertise and for cost-effectiveness. The lawyers and clients agree formally in writing from the outset that if negotiation does not result in an agreement that the lawyers are prohibited from taking the case to court. If you wish to go to court, you would have to find new lawyers. The result is that all involved in this collaborative process are seriously committed and motivated to working out an agreement and avoiding adversarial court proceedings. This approach is also cooperative, respectful and efficient.
Collaborative Family Law — Frequently Asked Questions
- WHAT IS IT?
CFL is a process in which you and your lawyer and your spouse and his or her lawyer work together in a respectful and cooperative manner to reach a mutually acceptable agreement. This is done mainly in a series of meetings with the spouses and their lawyers present. The number of meetings required depends mainly on the complexity of the case. The lawyers are committed to the peaceful resolution of the case — they have agreed in advance to withdraw from the case if it cannot be resolved in the CFL process and one or both spouses decide to go to court. For a more detailed definition of the CFL process, please go to the bottom of this article.
- HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
This will depend on the number of issues and the willingness of the couple to reach an agreement, and each case has its unique characteristics. All time required by the lawyers is billed at his or her regular hourly rate. The process tends to be efficient as the couple is working together and not spending time initiating or defending against conflict that is very labour intensive.
- HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE?
This depends on the same factors that determine costs (see above).
- DO I NEED A LAWYER?
Yes. Lawyers specially trained in the CFL process are essential to this CFL process. Your lawyer will advise you and advocate on your behalf, guiding you through the delicate and complicated task of restructuring your family in a respectful, cooperative, problem-solving manner.
- HOW OFTEN AND WHERE DO WE MEET?
Usually every three to four weeks, at one or other of the lawyer’s offices — we often take turns. This pace can be accelerated or slowed down as required.
- WHAT IF I THINK I CAN DO BETTER IN COURT?
You should always choose the process (mediation, collaborative family law, lawyer-lawyer negotiation, arbitration, litigation), which offers the best alternative to you after considering all the relevant factors such as cost, speed, privacy, impact on children and the parties themselves, etc.
- CAN I TERMINATE THE CFL PROCESS?
Yes, at any time. The CFL agreement sets out how this may be done.
- HOW DO I START?
Call the CFL lawyer’s office and arrange for a meeting with the lawyer. He or she will tell you more about how the process is started and proceeds.
- DO I NEED TO HAVE A GOOD RELATIONSHIP WITH MY SPOUSE IN ORDER TO ENGAGE IN THE CFL PROCESS?
No. Most communication and relationship problems can be managed in the CFL process. The essential ingredient is a desire to reach a fair and equitable agreement.
- WHAT IF I THINK MY SPOUSE IS A BETTER NEGOTIATOR THAN I AM?
In almost every case, one spouse is a better negotiator than the other. However, there are many factors in the CFL process that help to equalize bargaining power.
- DO I NEED TO BE SEPARATED BEFORE THE CFL PROCESS STARTS?
No. We can deal with conflicts in ongoing relationships, or with situations where a separation is imminent, as well as post-separation situations.
- IS THE AGREEMENT I REACH WITH MY SPOUSE LEGALLY ENFORCEABLE?
COLLABORATIVE FAMILY LAW (CFL)
Our Ottawa CFL website defines it in a more detailed way as follows:
“COLLABORATIVE FAMILY LAW (CFL)” is a dignified, cooperative approach to negotiating and settling the issues arising from a family separation outside of court. Separated spouses, with the assistance of specially trained family law lawyers, negotiate their issues, as they define them, in a controlled, safe, and respectful setting. These structured negotiations happen in meetings between the spouses and their lawyers. These “Four-way Meetings” allow the spouses to explore together their issues, as they define them, in their voice. The lawyers act both as communication / negotiation coaches for their clients, and simultaneously fulfil their usual role of advising their clients about their legal rights, entitlements and obligations. The parties focus on effectively communicating to gather facts and discover each other’s interests. Emotional tactics, threats, or abusive communications are all identified, discussed and eliminated. The lawyers, having agreed to not take part in any litigation that may occur if an agreement isn’t reached, efficiently focus their time and effort solely on settlement, rather than posturing or preparing documents or themselves for court. Everyone, including the lawyers, are focused on creating together a stable, fair, legal Agreement.”
Contact John G. Goodwin
To learn more about collaborative family law, contact me at 613-236-0662 or fill out my online form to set up an appointment.