There has been a growing trend in family law to attempt to decrease the adversarial nature of divorce, in particular when children are involved. Further, the complexity of the court systems currently around divorce has made the process drawn out and extremely costly.
In response to this, the concept of collaborative law was born. When two spouses decide to divorce under the collaborative process, they are agreeing to be committed to arrive at a fair and equitable solution. One of the main tenants of collaborative law is to remain respectful of each other throughout the process and to remember the stakeholders, mainly children, that are affected by the divorce.
There is a contract that is signed by both parties at the beginning of the process. Each party still retains a lawyer that will look out for their interests, but other professionals are involved as well. A mental health professional is brought in to deal with conflict that may arise and to help with the issue of the children. Their role may range from being a mediator and running meetings, to simply offering advice when it is requested.
A second professional is the financial specialist. Their role is to answer any questions the parties may have as to how the solutions arrived at will impact each party financially. Also, they may be asked to create a solution that is equitable to each side. They remain impartial throughout the process and are not an advocate for either side.
If either side decide that they no longer want to continue with the process and would rather litigate, both of the lawyers must resign and new lawyers must be hired. Any information shared in the collaborative process is not admissible in subsequent court filings. This is included in the contract to ensure that the parties feel they can be open and honest during the meetings and that the information won’t be used against them in a litigious situation.
Collaborative law in Ontario has seen an exponential increase in the past decade. The Ontario Collaborative Law Federation currently lists 18 different collaborative law groups in the province. DJB currently has involvement with the Hamilton and Niagara Collaborative Law Groups. With the push currently under way to streamline the family law process, this is certain to only increase.
If you have any questions regarding collaborative law, or would like more information, please contact a member of the DJB Financial Services Team.
Corey Miles, C.A., C.B.V.
Manager, Business Valuations
DJB Financial Services