Collaborative practice is an approach to addressing complex family law issues that centres around working together to achieve desired outcomes. It places emphasis on cooperation, empathy, understanding, and mutual respect rather than adversarial interactions. Also referred to as collaborative law, this method highlights the importance of cooperative negotiations in family law matters, distinguishing it from more confrontational traditional approaches. Instead of opting for litigation, separating couples and their legal representatives engage in family-focused discussions, striving for mutually acceptable settlements through transparent and confidential negotiations. Typically, they enter into a binding agreement to bypass court proceedings, committing to fostering constructive dialogue.
This holistic approach involves not only lawyers but also jointly retained neutral experts, as necessary, to facilitate a comprehensive resolution that considers the well-being of the entire family rather than focusing solely on individual rights or adversarial tactics.
In Australia, the Australian Association of Collaborative Professionals (AACP) plays a prominent role in advocating for collaborative practice. The emphasis is on collaborative dispute resolution outside of court proceedings, with accredited professionals providing legal, financial, and emotional support to participants, enabling them to find suitable solutions while maintaining important relationships.
Collaborative practice offers various benefits that make it an appealing choice for many:
Empowerment over the process and cost of settlement: Unlike the unpredictability of court proceedings, collaborative practice places control firmly in the hands of the involved individuals.
Enhanced communication: Collaborative practice encourages open communication and information sharing, fostering a trust-filled atmosphere essential for constructive dialogue.
Stress reduction: By allowing couples to collaboratively address parenting and financial issues, collaborative practice minimises the stress associated with the settlement process without resorting to court.
Holistic resolution: The involvement of jointly retained neutral experts ensures a comprehensive resolution, prioritising the well-being of the entire family over individual rights or adversarial tactics.
Financial Neutrality: Collaborative practice includes a financially trained professional, referred to as a “financial neutral,” who independently verifies financial information, aids clients in transitioning to a new family structure, and assists in creating a financial foundation. The financial neutral’s role is crucial in evaluating financial information objectively, allowing parties to reach an agreement that acknowledges both their interests and concerns.
In conclusion, collaborative practice stands as a commendable alternative to traditional family law methods, offering benefits such as empowerment over the settlement process and costs, enhanced communication, stress reduction, a holistic approach, and the involvement of a financial neutral. It provides a means of settling disputes outside of courts, with participants receiving legal, financial, and emotional support from accredited professionals, facilitating the discovery of suitable solutions while preserving essential relationships.