How Do I Start a Collaborative Process with My Spouse?

From Clicklaw Wikibooks

Pick the right moment[edit]

You can't force your ex to start the collaborative 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 the collaborative process can be as simple as calling your ex up and inviting them to sit down at a coffee shop:

"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, and 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 the collaborative divorce process."

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

  • the 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 their specific expertise would help, without paying the lawyers to do everything,
  • 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,
  • the collaborative process is 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. Or maybe your ex would be willing to meet with a counsellor trained in the collaborative process who can help you both work on a parenting plan before starting the process with lawyers. Some people are more open to working on the parenting aspect and are wary of hiring a lawyer, so that can be a good way to start.

Hire collaborative lawyers[edit]

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

Lawyers who work in the collaborative practice model will say as much in their advertising. Before you hire your lawyer, first ask around. Have any of your friends used a collaborative lawyer, and what did they think of them? You can also find a list of lawyers through the BC-wide Collaborative Roster Society, or one of the other groups listed under the heading "Finding a collaborative professional" in the Collaborative Process section in the Resolving Family Law Problems out of Court chapter. 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.

For more information[edit]

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


This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by Catherine Brink, May 25, 2019.



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.


Normally referred to as the "Supreme Court of British Columbia," this court hears most court proceedings in this province. The Supreme Court is a court of inherent jurisdiction and is subject to no limits on the sorts of claims it can hear or on the sorts of orders it can make. Decisions of the Provincial Court are appealed to the Supreme Court; decisions of the Supreme Court are appealed to the Court of Appeal. See "Court of Appeal," "jurisdiction," "Provincial Court," and "Supreme Court of Canada."

A court established and staffed by the provincial government, which includes Small Claims Court, Youth Court, and Family Court. The Provincial Court is the lowest level of court in British Columbia and is restricted in the sorts of matters it can deal with. It is, however, the most accessible of the two trial courts and no fees are charged to begin or defend a family court proceeding. The Family Court of the Provincial Court cannot deal with the division of family property or matters under the Divorce Act. See "judge" and "jurisdiction."

(AKA collaborative settlement processes) A dispute resolution process in which the parties to a legal dispute and their lawyers agree that they will make every effort to resolve the dispute through cooperative, transparent negotiations, with the assistance of counsellors and neutral experts in financial issues and children's issues as necessary, without going to court. See "alternative dispute resolution."

A resolution of one or more issues in a court proceeding or legal dispute with the agreement of the parties to the proceeding or dispute, usually recorded in a written agreement or in an order that all parties agree the court should make. A court proceeding can be settled at any time before the conclusion of trial. See "action," "consent order," "family law agreements," and "offer."

The legal termination of a valid marriage by an order of a judge; the ending of a marital relationship and the conjugal obligations of each spouse to the other. See "conjugal rights," "marriage," and "marriage, validity of."

Something which can be owned. See "chattels" and "real property."

In family law, the process by which an agreement is formed between the parties to a legal dispute resolving that dispute, usually requiring mutual compromise from the parties' original positions to the extent tolerable by each party. See "alternative dispute resolution" and "family law agreements."

A person appointed by the federal or provincial government to manage and decide court proceedings in an impartial manner, independent of influence by the parties, the government, or agents of the government. The decisions of a judge are binding upon the parties to the proceeding, subject to appeal.

The testing of the claims at issue in a court proceeding at a formal hearing before a judge with the jurisdiction to hear the proceeding. The parties present their evidence and arguments to the judge, who then makes a determination of the parties' claims against one another that is final and binding on the parties unless appealed. See "action," "appeal," "argument," "claim," "evidence," and "jurisdiction."

The money charged by a lawyer to their client for the lawyer's services, usually pursuant to the terms of the lawyer's retainer agreement. Most family law lawyers bill by the hour with a premium for success or the difficulty or novelty of the case. A lawyer's bill may include "disbursements," costs incurred by the lawyer for such things as courier fees, court fees, or photocopying expenses. See "account" and "certificate of fees."

A person licensed to practice law in a particular jurisdiction. See "barrister and solicitor."

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