Collaborative Family Law Basics

Collaborative Family Law Basics

Contact Langford Law Office for Collaborative family law, we will as a team with both you and your spouse to help resolve family law disputes. Call (519) 360-1740

The basic approach of Collaborative Family Law is that you and your spouse, your lawyers, and any experts added to your team work together to come up with solutions that meet the needs of both you and your spouse. The assumption underlying Collaborative Family Law is that in most negotiations, while the interests of each party are often different, they are not necessarily opposed. What this means is that one party’s gain is not necessarily the other party’s loss. Through a creative, interest based approach, solutions can be developed that maximize both parties’ interests. It is different from mediation, however, in that you and your spouse each have your own lawyer throughout the process, both to provide legal advice and to provide some help in the option and solution generation process. You and your spouse are the persons primarily responsible for developing option and generating solutions. The lawyers and the experts are only there to help, however, not to tell you what to do.

Things You Don’t Have to Accept. You are separating from your spouse. Your world seems to be coming to an end. You are getting all kinds of advice as to what to do and WHAT NOT TO DO! You feel really vulnerable. You go to see a lawyer about your problems. Hiring an experienced family lawyer to help you with your problems is usually a good idea. Not all experienced family lawyers are created equal, however. Here are a couple things you need to know.

  1. 1.Most family law breakdowns do not need to go to court. Court is expensive, slow, and will usually result in a ‘one- size fits all’ solution, which probably neither you nor your spouse will be happy with. Court should really be a last result, not the first thing that you do.
  2. Certain family law problems may have to go to court. If one party is unrealistic about their obligations and what they are going to achieve at court, you may have to go to court. If the ex wants to destroy you, you may have a problem. If the ex thinks they are always right and you are always wrong, you may have a problem. Keep an eye on your costs, however, and ask your lawyer if steps are really necessary.
  3. Be honest about your income and your assets. Disclose what you own and earn with your lawyer right away. Give them all the information that you have. Let your lawyer decide what is important. If the other party thinks you are lying about what you own and what you earn, your conflict is going to be a lot more expensive and take a lot longer than it probably needs to take.
  4. Don’t kid yourself. The lawyers involved have a huge impact on the cost and level of conflict in a family law dispute. If you get a lawyer who is has a reputation as a gunslinger, you may pay a lot and you will likely destroy your relationship with your ex and possibly with your kids. You may win big, for now. Think long and hard whether you really need a gunslinger, and what impact it will have. If you have an easygoing spouse, you might make things much worse. Lawyers with a reputation as reasonable and resolution-oriented persons will often get you where you are going with less money and less collateral damage. Lawyers trained as Collaborative Family Lawyers are trained to find win-win solutions.
  5. No lawyers are cheap. Hiring a lawyer will probably cost you a lot. You can expect to pay your lawyer at least $7,500 if there is any kind of conflict at all. Lawyers have a lot of education, and often are smart, experienced persons. Family law is very hard and stressful. Lawyers are going to charge you a lot. They deserve to be paid well. You have a right to expect value, however, and a right to see the dockets breaking down what time was spent on your file, if you have concerns. Court will usually cost you more than negotiation – with a few notable exceptions, see Gunslinger, unrealistic expectations, people who lie, and exes who know everything and are always right.
  6. Most family law conflicts should not cost $50,000 to resolve. Court (with trial) will get you to $50,000 fairly quickly, however.
  7. If you worked things out quickly, you don’t own much, and the lawyers account sounds really high, ask questions. If it sounds really high in comparison with the work that was done, do not just accept the account on blind faith. Ask for dockets. Get a second opinion (see below).
  8. Ask if a different approach to solving the problem might work better.
  9. Tell your lawyer what motivates your ex, e.g. money, pride, anger, genuine care for the children. This should help with resolution.
  10. There will likely be some give-and-take with your ex to work things out. One party rarely gets everything that they want without having to give up something in return. The judge will likely dole out stuff to both parties at a trial. This does not mean giving them everything – ask your lawyer what would be reasonable in their experience for your situation.
  11. If you have concerns about your lawyer, your account, how your case is being handled, the cost of your proceeding, get a second opinion. Expect to pay for this (at least $500). Most lawyers won’t bad-mouth other lawyers, but they will either be non-committal (a warning sign about your lawyer), or they will say that you are in good hands (a good sign). The second opinion lawyer is more likely to tell you their observations about your lawyer’s style, rather than about their competence. You will find out if they are more court-oriented or resolution-oriented. Specific things, like accounts, cost, resolutions, and problem-solving approaches are easier to deal with in a second opinion than whether their lawyer is a good lawyer or not.
  12. Don’t have one lawyer represent you both. Lawyers should no do this. You can have your lawyer prepare a draft separation agreement or minutes of settlement, and give it to your ex.
  13. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of your lawyer. You have a right to ask questions. If your lawyer gets upset with you, this is not a good sign.
  14. If you want to work things out without going to court, and you really do want to work things out, look for a Collaborative Family Lawyer.