Separation and divorce are not a new concept. Generally speaking, the divorce rate in Canada is roughly 40%. This does not reflect the diversity of relationships that end in separation. However, this is a high enough number to make the matter of separation one of public interest, particularly considering how many parents are concerned about the wellbeing of their children and family members before and after separation.
Through the years, separating and divorcing parties have been advised to “lawyer up”, finding a strong and skilled attorney to embark in an adversarial process in order to fight the other party for assets and parenting rights. The Courts offer a process whereby a judge renders a decision, which most often does not offer a deeper resolve of family conflict or family issues. In litigation, the parties are adversaries and their representatives have the job of gathering evidence that support their client against the other side, feeding the culture of “us against them”. Litigation parties tend to be highly invested in winning against the other and become increasingly unable to work together for the benefit of their children, who are negatively impacted by being torn between their warring parental figures.
It is time to engage in a better separation practice. Collaborative Family Law is inviting us to consider just that: a way to transition families into a new path that is built together, with the best interest of children and family members at the forefront of discussions and negotiations.
Collaborative Family Law involves a team of professionals working with a family to settle all issues of parenting, support and division of assets under a formal agreement to settle matters outside of the Courts. The parties each retain a specialized lawyer who is not adversarial, and the two lawyers work together to develop a settlement plan as a part of a team. This team can include other professionals, such as financial specialists, divorce coaches or child specialists. The collaborative group works with families to help parties to address different barriers to settlement, being those emotional and psychological struggles, as well as any difficulty allocating resources, dividing assets, and managing budgets and taxes.
As a part of a supportive team, Collaborative Lawyers can be more effective in helping families develop separation plans that are understandable and enforceable. This approach offers hope that there is, indeed, a better way to separate, and that parties who use this process are able to make the transition from an intact family to a separated family in the healthiest ways possible. It is important to know that this approach does not work for every family, especially in the presence of family and intimate partner violence, and power imbalances. Collaborative Law Professionals can help each family explore their unique needs.
We look forward to hearing more stories of families that worked together to save their assets and promote the wellbeing of their children. Kids deserve to keep their families, even if their parents no longer live together; so the “kids’ side” is the only kind of “siding” collaboration calls for. We are on the side of families too!