How Do I Start a Collaborative Settlement Process with My Spouse?

From Clicklaw Wikibooks

Pick the right moment

You can't force your ex to start a collaborative settlement process with you, you can only do it with their agreement. Your ex isn't likely to agree to try a collaborative approach to settlement if they are still pissed off about a recent argument or still resentful about the end of the relationship.

When you've got the right moment, suggesting a collaborative settlement process can be as simple as calling your ex up and inviting them out for a cup of coffee at the local Tim Hortons:

"Hey look, I think it's time that we sat down and started to talk about things. I know you're still a bit upset about everything, but we really need to make a few decisions and I don't think we're going to be able to do this on our own. I've asked my friend Harkamal what happened with her and Baljinder, and she said that they used a collaborative settlement process."

At this point, it's all about getting your ex to try a collaborative settlement process, and it's your job to sell the idea. Here are some reasons why a collaborative approach is a really, really good idea:

  • a collaborative process will give you and your ex the best chance of leaving your relationship on good terms,
  • you can both participate in making the important decisions about your kids, your money and your property,
  • other helping professionals, like registered clinical counsellors and financial experts, can be brought into the process whenever extra help is necessary,
  • everyone is committed to finding a settlement without going to court, including the lawyers,
  • you can create the solution that is best for you and your family,
  • settlements reached through negotiation tend to last longer than decisions imposed by a judge after a trial,
  • a collaborative approach is much cheaper than going to court, and
  • you'll be done in a fraction of the time that you would have spent in court.

Going to trial will cost a minimum of $15,000 in lawyer's fees for a two- or three-day trial. Most family law trials are one or two weeks long, and this figure ignores the costs of all the other things that have to happen before you walk into the courtroom on day one!

If this doesn't get your ex to agree to try a collaborative approach, tell them to ask separated friends, family members and co-workers how much it cost for their court proceedings and how long it took to go from start to finish.

Hire collaborative lawyers

Now that your ex has agreed to a collaborative settlement process, you each need to hire a lawyer trained in collaborative practices and get the process underway.

Lawyers who work in a collaborative practice model will say as much in their advertising. You can also do an internet search for "collaborative lawyer bc" that will give you a list of collaborative lawyers and, even better, collaborative practice groups in your neighbourhood.

Collaborative practice groups will have lists of their members who are lawyers, mental health professionals and financial specialists, and the odds are pretty good that if you find a collaborative lawyer who you think you'll work well with, the lawyer will be able to recommend a handful of other lawyers from the same practice group for your ex.

Before you hire your lawyer, first ask around. Have any of your friends used a collaborative lawyer, and what did they think of them? If that doesn't work, call a family law lawyer. Most family law lawyers, even family law lawyers who aren't trained in collaborative processes, will be able to recommend you to someone they think highly of.

For more information

You can find out more about collaborative processes in the chapter Resolving Family Law Problems out of Court.


This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by Gayle Raphanel, July 5, 2017.



Creativecommonssmall.png JP Boyd on Family Law © John-Paul Boyd and Courthouse Libraries BC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada Licence.


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