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 settlementA 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." process with you, you can only do it with his or her agreement. Your ex isn't likely to agree to try a collaborative approach to settlement if he or she is still pissed off about a recent argument or is 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 him or her 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 propertySomething which can be owned. See "chattels" and "real 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 negotiationIn 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." tend to last longer than decisions imposed by a judgeA 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. after a trialThe 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.",
  • 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 feesThe 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." 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 him or her 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 lawyerA person licensed to practice law in a particular jurisdiction. See "barrister and solicitor." 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 him or her? 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.


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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