Collaborative Practice can be an ideal process for separating families looking to negotiate their Separation Agreements.  Lawyers have an obligation to discuss the different ways to keep a matter out of court with their clients.  Where lawyers are qualified to enter into a Collaborative Process they will talk to clients about whether this is an option worth considering.  When it comes to the Collaborative Process our clients need to understand what they are signing up (and what they are NOT signing up for).

There is an important distinction, for example, between interests-based negotiations (where all involved consider the goals, concerns and interests of all parties to try to create outcomes that address all interests knowing that in many cases peoples’ interests are not mutually exclusive), and avoiding legal obligations at the expense of the other party and/or the children.  Parties should not choose a Collaborative Process just because they don’t like the way the law will apply to their situation.  Similarly, they should not enter a Collaborative Process because they hope to put pressure on a party to agree to a desired outcome to keep the matter out of court.

The following is summarized from the information provided to people considering this process by Collaborative Practice Hamilton Halton.

Collaborative Practice is:

  • A process requiring two lawyers who are specially training in Collaborative Practice.
  • A process requiring parties and all professionals involved to sign a Participation Agreement which provides, among other things, that the lawyers must withdraw if the matter proceeds to litigation (this creates an expensive disincentive to terminating the Collaborative Process).
  • A negotiation process that considers the interests of all parties and their families – these interests and the law both matter
  • A process with specified communication protocols for the lawyers and the other professionals (for example, phone calls rather than long letters or emails making submissions on a client’s behalf).
  • Focused settlement meetings with clear agendas and post-meeting progress notes.
  • Private, meaning what happens in a Collaborative Process stays in the Collaborative Process (much like a closed mediation process).
  • An interdisciplinary team process, meaning that while each party has a lawyer the team will likely also include a neutral family professional and a neutral financial professional and, sometimes, a neutral business valuator or other professional. This reduces the legal fees the parties incur, while ensuring that the most appropriate professional is helping parties on each task (for example, developing a parenting plan or collecting and analyzing financial information so parties can make decisions).
  • An opportunity for clients to participate in their settlement meetings (requiring respectful communication where each person listens to the others and has the same opportunity to provide input).

Collaborative Practice is NOT:

  • A way for parties to avoid making complete financial disclosure.
  • A way for parties to avoid their legal obligations.
  • A process that allows clients to hide behind their lawyers.
  • A process for lawyers to advocate using positional bargaining tactics (threats, delays and ultimatums).

For more information about Collaborative Practice and to discuss whether it is the best process for your family please contact us at or email