Collaborative Divorce/Common Law Separation

What is Collaborative Divorce/Separation? 

Traditionally, parties involved in divorce or separation proceedings are pitted against one other, with each partner fighting to protect his or her interests, which are seen to be separate from the interests of his or her partner.  The process tends to be stressful and acrimonious, and rarely is anyone fully satisfied with the outcome. 

Collaborative Divorce/Separation is a method that strives to avoid the unnecessary stress, animosity and expense associated with the traditional style of divorce/separation proceedings.  It is based upon the assumptions that clients can make their own decisions and that separating individuals’ interests are interdependent. 

At the commencement of the collaborative process, both parties and their lawyers sign a Participation Agreement in which they commit to trying to reach an agreement that is satisfactory to both parties without resorting to litigation.  Parties are encouraged to listen to one another, attempt to understand one another’s viewpoints and work together toward a settlement that serves both parties’ interests.

Collaborative Divorce/Separation can Benefit Children.

Research reveals that how parents conduct themselves during a separation has far more impact on the well being of the children than the act of separating itself.   As the collaborative process encourages participants to remain respectful of one another, cooperate and maintain their integrity during the separation process, children are exposed to much less animosity and do not feel the need to take sides.

The collaborative process keeps children out of the courtroom and ensures that it is the children and the children’s parents, not a judge, who make decisions regarding the children’s welfare.  While judges tend to make decisions based upon how past cases were decided, parents participating in the collaborative process can come up with creative arrangements that will serve their family’s unique needs and be in the best interests of their children.

Our Ottawa Collaborative Divorce/Separation Lawyers Guide Parties through the Separation Process.

Traditionally, lawyers involved in divorce/separation proceedings are seen as “hired guns” who try to win as much for their clients as possible.  In the collaborative process, lawyers act as guides who lead the client through the process.  They educate the parties about the process, explain underlying legal rules and implications, insist that all parties adhere to the ground rules set out in the Participation Agreement, manage conflict and draft the documents to finalize the divorce/separation once an agreement has been reached.

While lawyers in the collaborative process still act as advocates for their clients, they also attempt to understand the other party’s viewpoints and encourage their client to do the same.  Their goal is not to “win” as much as possible for their client but rather to ensure that any agreement reached between the parties satisfies their client’s interests and big-picture goals as closely as possible.

The Participation Agreement that lawyers involved in the Collaborative process sign with their clients prohibits them from continuing to act for their clients if the collaborative process breaks down.  This ensures that they fully commit themselves to trying to reach a satisfactory settlement without resorting to litigation.

Collaborative Divorce/Separation can Save Money.

While Collaborative Divorce/Separation is not “bargain-basement” (there are still lawyers’ and specialists’ fees to be covered), it is generally less expensive than the traditional method.  In the traditional method, each party demands full disclosure from the other and then each party hires their own experts and gathers the information individually.  Parties in the Collaborative Divorce/Separation process can keep their costs down by agreeing on what information they need and don’t need and agreeing to share the burden of collecting certain information.  Parties in the collaborative process also avoid costly court processes.

Our Experienced Family Law Lawyers can Advise Clients on whether the Collaborative Divorce/Separation Process is Right for Them.

While the family law lawyers at Spiteri & Ursulak LLP are firm believers in the benefits of the Collaborative Divorce/Separation process in certain situations, they also recognize that in certain situations, the more traditional, adversarial style of divorce/separation will more appropriately protect clients’ interests.  As our family law lawyers have extensive experience with all forms of divorce and separation proceedings, they are well-positioned to advise clients on what approach would be most appropriate in their given situation.

To find out more about Collaborative Divorce/Common Law Separation or to consult our family law lawyers about any other family law matters, please contact us at 613-563-1010 or