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05 // An Introduction to Collaborative Family Law in British Columbia, Canada

Updated: May 9

Are you wondering how to reach an agreement with your spouse after separation? The

Collaborative Family Law Process might be the solution for you. In British Columbia, Canada,

the Collaborative Process offers a cooperative and amicable approach to resolving legal

disputes. We’ll explain what collaborative law is, how it works, and why it can be beneficial in

navigating your separation and divorce.

What is the Collaborative Family Law Process?

Collaborative Process (often called “Collaborative Divorce”) is a dispute resolution process that

aims to settle legal matters outside of court through cooperation and negotiation. It is particularly

popular in family law cases involving divorce, support, parenting plans, and property division.

The key feature of collaborative law is that both parties, along with their respective lawyers,

commit to reaching a mutually acceptable agreement without resorting to litigation.

How Does the Collaborative Process Work?

Voluntary Participation: Both parties must voluntarily agree to participate in the

collaborative law process. This commitment is formalized through a participation

agreement signed by all parties and their lawyers.

Transparent Communication: Throughout the process, open and transparent

communication is encouraged. Each party is encouraged to express their concerns,

goals, and priorities.

Interdisciplinary Team: Mental Health Professionals (sometimes called “Collaborative

Coaches”) and neutral financial professionals join the lawyers to provide a holistic,

educational approach that allows clients to make fully informed decisions.

Neutral Experts: In addition to lawyers, collaborative law often involves neutral experts

such as real estate appraisers, business valuators, and pension actuaries. These

experts provide objective insights and help facilitate discussions on specific issues.

Problem-Solving Focus: Unlike the courtroom setting, which is confrontational and

adversarial, collaborative law focuses on problem-solving and reaching mutually

beneficial solutions. The goal is to address the interests and needs of both parties and

any children involved.

Negotiation and Agreement: Through a series of meetings and negotiations, facilitated

by the collaborative team, the parties work together to reach a comprehensive

agreement covering all relevant aspects of the dispute.

Benefits of the Collaborative Process

  • Preserves Relationships: Collaborative law promotes a cooperative environment, which can help preserve relationships, especially important in family matters where ongoing communication may be necessary.

  • Empowers Parties: By actively participating in negotiations and decision-making, parties feel more empowered and in control of the outcome compared to a court-imposed decision.

  • Cost-Effective: Avoiding lengthy court battles can result in cost savings for both parties, as collaborative law typically requires fewer formal proceedings and less attorney time.

  • Privacy: Collaborative law proceedings are private and confidential, unlike court proceedings which are a matter of public record.

  • Tailored and Unique Solutions: Parties have the flexibility to tailor agreements to their own specific needs and circumstances rather than adhering strictly to legal precedents.

Collaborative Family Law in British Columbia

Collaborative Family Law is available in over 25 countries and has been practiced in British Columbia for over 30 years. The process is designed to align with the province's family law framework, emphasizing the importance of reaching agreements that prioritize the best interests of children and fair outcomes for all parties involved.

 In British Columbia, lawyers must  be certified in the collaborative process to offer collaborative divorce to clients.  The International Academy of Collaborative Professionals is an international community of legal, mental health, and financial professionals that provides guidelines, training, and support for lawyers practicing collaborative law.   The British Columbia Collaborative Roster Society provides information for the public about the collaborative practice as well as requirements of membership.  Local practice groups such as Collaborative Divorce Vancouver and the Collaborative Association of the Lower Mainland provide further resources and contact information  for collaborative lawyers and other professionals.    

The Collaborative Process offers a constructive alternative to traditional litigation or lawyer to lawyer negotiation to  resolve family law disputes. By fostering cooperation, communication, and creative, informed problem-solving, it empowers clients to take control of their legal matters while preserving important relationships. If you're facing separation or any other family law dispute in British Columbia, consider exploring collaborative law as a viable option for achieving a mutually acceptable resolution.

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