A lot of attention has recently focused on a new method of dispute resolution known as “collaborative family law practice”.  It is similar to mediation in that it employs non-adversarial techniques to reach settlement but there are many important differences.

In a collaborative practice, the clients themselves conduct settlement negotiations with the lawyers by their side so that ownership of the process is kept with the clients.  Most often these negotiations take place during 4-way meetings in which the lawyers act as advisers and structurers of the settlement rather than taking charge of the negotiation.

The parties are required to sign an agreement, prior to undertaking the collaborative practice, that, if agreement cannot be reached the lawyers for each party must withdraw and neither they nor any member of their firms may represent the clients in subsequent litigation.  This is designed to ensure that there is no “holding back” so that the parties are fully committed to reaching a reasonable settlement without negotiating and maneuvering for litigation advantage later on.

Collaborative law can be a useful tool in attempting to reach settlement but it is not suited to every dispute and the disadvantages, as well as the obvious advantages, of the practice must be carefully considered before committing to this method of negotiation.  The process requires a considerable commitment, for both clients and their lawyers, to work co-operatively to try to achieve a settlement.

For further information in relation to collaborative law or any advice or information concerning family or defacto law issues please contact Amanda Doring or email amanda@wmdlaw.com.au, who is one of our collaborative lawyers .

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