Collaborative Practice: Who Is It For and What Are the Advantages

Collaborative Practice is a relatively new dispute resolution method that is becoming increasingly popular for families going through separation or divorce in Queensland and in Australia. It is a voluntary process that involves both parties and their lawyers working together to reach a mutually beneficial agreement outside of the courtroom. Unlike traditional litigation, collaborative law emphasises cooperation, communication, and a non-adversarial approach to resolving disputes. We share the advantages and disadvantages of going down the path of collaborative law, and in what instances it may not be suitable. 

How The Collaborative Process Works

In a Collaborative Practice process, both parties retain their own lawyers and work together towards a mutually agreed upon resolution. Independent specialist practitioners, such as a child specialist, financial adviser, etc, are brought into the process as needed. These neutral experts are able to provide the advice needed for parties to make informed decisions The parties sign an agreement committing to the collaborative process and to resolve the matter outside of court. This agreement also commits both parties to full disclosure of all relevant information.

Throughout the process, both parties and their lawyers participate in a series of meetings to identify and discuss the issues in dispute, as well as potential solutions. The focus is on finding a solution that works for both parties, rather than winning or losing. The lawyers’ role in this process is to provide advice and support, but not to act as advocates for either party.

Legal Considerations in Queensland, Australia

In Queensland, collaborative practice is governed by the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) and the Family Law Regulations 1984 (Cth). These laws set out the requirements and obligations of parties involved in the collaborative process, including their obligations to act in good faith and with transparency.

Additionally, the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia has developed guidelines for collaborative practice in family law disputes. These guidelines provide further guidance on the collaborative process and how it should be conducted in accordance with the Family Law Act and Regulations.

Benefits of the Collaborative Process

The Collaborative process offers several benefits over traditional litigation, including:

  • Efficiency: The Collaborative process typically moves much faster than traditional litigation, as it focuses on resolving issues as quickly as possible.
  • Cost-effectiveness: The collaborative process is generally less expensive than traditional litigation, as it involves fewer court appearances and less time in front of a judge.
  • Control: In a collaborative law process, both parties retain control over the outcome, and actively mould their own agreement rather than leaving the decision to a judge. This often leads to more satisfying and personalized outcomes for both parties.
  • Privacy: The Collaborative process is private, whereas traditional litigation is often public. This can be especially important for families who want to keep their disputes out of the public eye.
  • Reduced Stress: Collaborative practice is non-adversarial, which can lead to a reduction in stress and anxiety for both parties.
  • Improved Relationships: Collaborative law can help improve relationships between parties, as it focuses on cooperation and mutual respect. This can be especially important for families who need to continue to co-parent after the divorce.

Is a Collaborative Law Approach Right for Me and My Family Law Dispute

  • Not Appropriate for All Cases: The Collaborative process is not appropriate for all cases, as it requires a willingness to cooperate and work together from both parties. In cases where one party is unwilling to participate in the collaborative law process, it may not present a viable pathway to resolution. In saying that, collaborative practitioners are dispute resolution and conflict management specialists and the process often leads to a resolution where there appears little hope of doing so from the outset.
  • No Guaranteed Outcome: There is no guaranteed resolution, as the process is voluntary and depends on the willingness of both parties to work together. While most cases do result in a resolution being reached, in cases where a resolution is not reached, parties may need to resort to traditional litigation to resolve their dispute. Your Collaborative Lawyer won’t be able to represent you in litigation if the collaborative process breaks down. This rule both protects both of the clients as well as the integrity of the process.  
  • Agreements are Not Automatically Legally Enforceable. The Collaborative approach is a pathway for parties to reach agreements, and once documented, these agreed outcomes become legally enforceable by way of consent orders or a binding financial agreement.

In What Instances Would a Collaborative Approach Not Be Appropriate?

  • High Conflict Cases: If the parties have a high degree of conflict and are unable to communicate or cooperate effectively, collaborative law may not be the best option.
  • Domestic Violence: If there is a history of domestic violence or abuse, collaborative law may not be appropriate as it requires the parties to work together in a cooperative manner.
  • Mental Health Concerns: If one or both parties have significant mental health concerns, it may not be appropriate to use the collaborative law process.
  • Unwillingness to Compromise: If one or both parties are unwilling to compromise or make concessions, the collaborative law process may not be successful.

Pullos Lawyers are Industry Leaders in Collaborative Practice

At Pullos Lawyers, we understand the sensitive and complex nature of family law disputes. Our team of passionate experts is equipped to handle all aspects of family law, including separation and divorce, parenting arrangements, property and financial settlements, and LGBTQ+ matters. Our focus is always on achieving the best possible outcome for our clients, whether that is through litigation, negotiation, mediation, collaborative practice, or other dispute resolution methods, with a proven track record forged form over 35 years working in the family court system. We listen to our clients’ needs and concerns with care, empathy, and compassion, providing them with the support and strategies they need for a positive future. If you need assistance, we invite you to get in touch today.