According to Canadian Lawyer Magazine, the national average cost in legal fees for a five day family law trial is approximately $35,950. While complex legal issues may sometimes require a trial of this length, parties are increasingly turning to alternative means of resolving disputes through faster and more economical processes, including the collaborative divorce process.
What is the Collaborative Divorce Process?
The collaborative divorce process is a means of resolving disputes related to the divorce amicably.
The process starts with a participation agreement (the Agreement), which both spouses and their lawyers sign. The Agreement requires the parties commit to making all efforts to negotiate a divorce agreement without going to court, each party will freely share information required, and if experts are required the parties will agree to neutral experts.
Finally, and importantly, under the Agreement, the lawyers agree not to represent the parties if they choose to litigate (turn to the courts to resolve) the divorce issues. This means the collaborative lawyers have a clear incentive to put their best efforts into resolving the matter as they will not get any additional legal fees for pursuing it in court.
Advantages to a Collaborative Approach?
The first and obvious advantage is that collaborative divorce is often a more amicable process. Unlike a court proceeding, this process proceeds privately. The parties retain control, which affords them an opportunity to creatively resolve the matter in a way that might not be possible in court proceeding.
As the parties retain control over the process, issues can be resolved on a faster timeline then is possible in a court process.
Finally, as is evident from the statistics at the top of this blog post, preparing for a five day trial is very expensive. In a trial situation, if the parties are each retaining their own experts, fighting over disclosure and other procedural matters, the entire procedure can get more expensive still. The collaborative approach reduces many of these expenses.
Is it Appropriate for Us?
There is no clear litmus test for the collaborative divorce process, however, there are key things to keep in mind.
The collaborative approach is only appropriate when both parties intend to maintain composure and a respectful tone even when there is a disagreement. Where there are children involved, both parties must agree to prioritize the needs of the children ahead of their own personal gain. A strong commitment to treating each other ethically and listening to each other’s needs with an open mind is also important.
If either party engages or is likely to engage in the following conduct, the collaborative divorce process may not be right for you:
- hiding information or documents from your own lawyer;
- complaints about a spouse on social media or sending inappropriate messages via text, social media or email;
- selling assets without permission; and/or,
- failing to put a child’s needs first, including defamation of the other spouse to a child.
Using collaborative law is also not recommended if there is a high level of conflict or if there is an unequal balance of power between you and your spouse.
What Happens if Collaborative Divorce Fails?
The majority of collaborative divorces successfully resolve the issues between the parties.
However, as stated above, if the collaborative divorce process is not successful, the parties will have to retain new counsel to represent them during the litigation as required by the participation agreement.
Contact Epstein & Associates, Barrie Family Lawyers
As is evident from the above, the collaborative divorce process can be the right mechanism for resolving disputes related to the divorce in a fair and cost-effective manner. Using the collaborative approach eliminates the adversity found in a traditional court case and helps the two of you to part amicably. At Epstein & Associates, we have extensive experience assisting spouses in separation agreements and divorce proceedings, including traditional litigation and collaborative divorce proceedings in Barrie, Newmarket, Richmond Hill and the GTA. Contact us today at 1-866-463-2266 to schedule a consultation regarding your specific case.