Working together to resolve relationship disputes

19 March 2021

When your relationship breaks down you can access a range of dispute resolution services to help you and your former partner reach agreement. These services can include negotiation between lawyers, mediation, arbitration, conciliation and family dispute resolution.

There is also another approach to dispute resolution called Collaborative Practice. This is an interest-based process where the parties (you and your former partner), their lawyers and others involved – more on that later – agree in writing at the outset to resolve the dispute without filing court proceedings.

Collaborative Practice is sometimes described as a 'respectful way to divorce'. With court off the table, parties are able to focus on trying to resolve their differences so that they can each move forward.

Collaborative Practice is used to reach solutions for the family while the parties themselves remain in control and guide the process. While legal advice is still provided, the process encourages parties to focus on what will work best for their family, and less on individual entitlements. In this way, the process can be a dignified way to resolve disputes arising from separation taking into consideration the parties’ and the children’s needs, interests and concerns.

Both parties are supported during the process by a number of professionals including lawyers, financial professionals and coaches, who are often called financial neutrals or communication specialists and who are all trained in the Collaborative Practice process. The issues in dispute will influence who is invited to the table to assist.

Rather than an exchange of letters between lawyers, negotiations are held by a series of face to face (or video link up) meetings to discuss the issues that need to be addressed.

Collaborative Practice aims to avoid a breakdown in communication and preserve the relationship between the parties as much as possible. This helps to minimise the impact of the separation process on the children.

Other professionals such as the coach or communication specialist will meet with each party and often assist in the background too. Financial neutrals include forensic accountants and financial planners who will assist in determining the value of various assets, addressing any tax related consequences and forecasting the financial needs of each party. This assistance is provided in an informal and usually face-to-face manner.

If the parties are unable to resolve their matter using the Collaborative Practice model, they will each need to engage new lawyers and any financial or child experts to assist them in progressing the matter through the court process. This is because the professionals around the table agree, at the outset, not to be involved if the matter goes to court. This ensures that all invited to the table are committed and invested to try reaching a resolution through Collaborative Practice.

Please get in touch if you would like to talk about Collaborative Practice, or how we can help you resolve your family law matter.

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