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Getting Started with the Collaborative Process
You can begin the process in the way that works best for your situation.
While many spouses start by each scheduling a consultation with a Collaborative lawyer, some start by jointly engaging a family professional/child specialist to discuss the parenting arrangements and then “ease into” tackling legal and financial issues. Others begin with a financial professional to jointly gather relevant financial documentation before engaging other Collaborative professionals.
If you are not sure where to start, our website can help you locate and contact one of our Collaborative professionals. If you are communicating with your spouse1, invite them to do the same. If not, a Collaborative professional can help.
1For simplicity, the term “partner(s)” and “spouse(s)” are used interchangeably on this website to refer to spouses, partners, former spouses or partners or fiancé(e)s, as applicable.
Find a Professional
Search for a Collaborative professional by Name, Profession or Postal Code.
Create Your Team
The Collaborative Process requires two Collaboratively trained lawyers and a signed Participation Agreement. Your Collaborative team may also include a family professional and/or a financial professional. Adding professionals does not necessarily mean added costs. Having the best person for each task allows the work to be allocated between professionals in a coordinated manner. Our family and financial professionals work with both partners in a neutral and unbiased manner. Much of their work takes place outside of group meetings and without adding the cost of the two lawyers. All professional members of the team have significant training in the Collaborative process.
The emotional and psychological issues surrounding a relationship breakdown often present obstacles as you resolve your family law issues. The family professional will work directly with you and your spouse, as well as with the team, as you make comprehensive legal, financial, and child-related agreements. If you have children, the family professional provides insight and guidance to develop a parenting plan for your family in two homes.
Reliable financial information is key to enabling you and your partner to create a reasonable resolution that meets your needs. Financial professionals are licensed in various areas of financial expertise. Your lawyers will help you decide which type of financial professional may be needed for your circumstances. Collaborative Divorce Toronto has a diverse roster of professional accountants, business valuators, financial planners, divorce financial analysts and pension experts. They provide neutral, unbiased information and analysis and help you reach a fiscally responsible settlement.
Your Collaborative lawyer forms part of the team, but also maintains a confidential relationship with you. Your lawyer is your “respectful advocate” who will guide and advise you, both in meetings and privately. Your partner will also have a Collaborative lawyer serving the same role. The requirement that both lawyers be Collaboratively trained keeps the focus on productive and respectful settlement discussions.
Sign a Participation Agreement
The Participation Agreement sets out the rules for the process, such as:
- The six Collaborative steps for effective problem-solving
- Full disclosure of financial and other relevant information
- Respectful communication and acting in good faith
- No court proceedings or threats to litigate while involved with the process
- No affidavits or letters with hurtful accusations
- Privacy of your negotiations which cannot be disclosed in court
Participate in Structured Discussions
Discussing issues together avoids “broken telephone” and often counter-productive communication through counsel. You are both present and involved as you each share information, goals and concerns and directly hear the input from both lawyers and other professionals.
The negotiations provide the opportunity to explore the concerns that are most important to you and your spouse. Your team ensures there is a clear understanding of the legal and financial information before you begin to discuss proposals. There is an opportunity for more creative and “tailor-made” settlements than those achieved in other dispute resolution processes.
Arrive at a Resolution
Once an understanding is reached on all issues and both you and your partner are satisfied with the balance that has been struck, your lawyers will draft your separation agreement, which is a binding and enforceable contract. Where appropriate, your agreement may allow for review and possible changes in the future. For example, many families decide to return to work with the family professional to update parenting arrangements as their children grow or get help with parenting challenges as they arise. The Collaborative Process focuses on supporting you to move forward in two households.
The Collaborative Process is not just for divorce
It is uniquely suited for negotiating marriage contracts and cohabitation agreements. The Collaborative Process provides a respectful, non-adversarial environment in which you and your future partner can openly discuss your objectives and concerns for the agreement and exchange your financial and other relevant information.
Build the Foundation
Introduction and overview of the Collaborative Process. Identify our goals, needs, interests and concerns.
Determine issues to be resolved.
Identify what financial and other information we require. Agree upon and initiate any joint valuations.
Explore Options for Resolution of Issues
Develop a realistic range of possible solutions.
Evaluate Consequences of Each Option
Consider immediate and long-term implications on us and our children. How well does the option meet our interests and goals?
Arrive at Agreement
Generate a settlement proposal that considers and reflects our goals, needs, interests and concerns. Prepare a Separation Agreement incorporating our decisions.