In the collaborative family law process:
- You and your spouse agree to work together with lawyers who practise collaborative family law to find acceptable solutions that work for both of you.
- Both you and your spouse are represented by your own lawyer.
The collaborative family law process is different from the traditional divorce or separation proceedings in several ways, including:
- No court — Both you and your spouse and your lawyers sign a written agreement to work together at resolving your issues without going to court.
- Honest communication — You and your spouse also agree in writing to open and honest communication, including agreeing to openly share information (such as information about your finances) with one another.
- Team approach — Specially trained lawyers, divorce coaches, child specialists and financial advisers are available to help you, as necessary. You, your lawyers, and your coaches will work as a team to solve your disputes, whether the issues relate to support, division of property, or parenting.
- Four-way meetings — Instead of letting your lawyers do the talking, you and your spouse and your lawyers participate in a series of meetings. Sometimes your lawyers may meet alone to set the agenda for the meetings or to give each other information about you or your spouse that is necessary for solving the issues. The number of meetings required will depend on how many issues you and your spouse face and how complex these issues are.
What's important to the collaborative family law process is that you and your spouse are willing to discuss and solve your separation issues with honesty and respect and without treating each other as enemies.
An agreement reached through the collaborative family law process is a legal contract. For information on making, enforcing, and changing an agreement, see Making an agreement after you separate.
Can anyone use the collaborative family law process?
Collaborative family law may not be appropriate for everyone, especially if there have been issues of family violence or child abuse, or if one spouse won't participate fairly in the process.
However, in general, collaborative family law offers you and your spouse the ability to come up with your own solutions, which often means you'll spend a lot less on professional fees than you would if you were to resolve your issues in court.
How do I find a collaborative family lawyer?
To find a collaborative family lawyer, see the following websites:
- BC Collaborative Roster Society (Lower Mainland and Victoria)
- Collaborative Divorce Vancouver (Lower Mainland)
- The Collaborative Association (Lower Mainland)
- Collaborative Family Separation Professionals (Victoria)
- North Shore Collaborative Family Law Group (Vancouver)
- Okanagan Collaborative Family Law Group (Okanagan Valley)
- Collaborative Law Group of Nelson (East and West Kootenays)
The Lawyer Referral Service may also be able to refer you to a lawyer who practises collaboratively.
Pro Bono Collaborative Divorce Project
The BC Collaborative Roster Society offers a pro bono program for people going through separation or divorce who want, but can’t afford, to hire collaborative family lawyers. A team will work together with both parties to reach a settlement that may include a parenting plan and/or an agreement on financial matters and support. Apply for the pro bono program online.