Who is on the "team" in collaborative family law in Ottawa?
The collaborative family law process involves many team members. In a previous post, we referred to discussing additional professionals at your first meeting. Unlike litigation, where experts and outside professionals are hired by each individual party, and may engage in a "battle of the experts", your team consists of trained professionals chosen by you and your spouse together.
The collaborative family law process is holistic, meaning it recognizes and addresses the many different aspects of a separation. In litigation, the only concern is the law. In collaborative family law, we address all of your interests. At times, the best way to do that is to hire third parties. All members of the team are bound by the Collaborative Participation Agreement, including confidentiality and the commitment to the process.
Each person hires their own lawyer. Their lawyer is their advocate, and while the lawyers work as a "team", each lawyer is not "neutral". Each lawyer advocates for and advises their own client, and protects their client's interests. Your lawyer will provide you with independent legal advice, and assist you with making the best decision for your family.
You can find a list of collaborative family lawyers in Ottawa here.
Financial specialists act as "neutrals" on the team. They educate both spouses on their financial affairs, help prepare budgets and net worth statements, and provide useful projections to forecast various options for the future. They can analyze assets and liabilities, and provide information about tax consequences on support payments and assets subject to equalization.
If one spouse generally looked after the finances, they may help the other learn about investments and budgeting. If an equalization payment is being made, they can help determine the amount of the payment, how it should be paid, and provide advice about investments.
Specific financial professionals may also be involved, such as mortgage brokers, if their specific services are required.
You can find a list of collaborative family financial specialists in Ottawa, as well as other team members, here.
Family Relations Counsellors, Child Specialists, and Divorce Coaches
These neutrals bring expertise about family relationships, child development, and emotional needs. They may work directly with the children or the parties to help process the emotional aspects of the divorce. They may educate parents on the needs of children at various stages of development, make recommendations about the best interests of the children, and help parents work out parenting schedules and communication strategies that best serve their unique situation. If the collaborative process gets "stuck", these experts can help move things forward by addressing the underlying concerns and interests that may be preventing a resolution.
The emotional aspect of a separation means that third party assistance is almost inevitable. In traditional litigation, this role often falls to lawyers. Lawyers are very well-versed in the legal aspects of a separation, and often can offer helpful emotional support, but they are not counselling experts. Family relations counsellors and other third parties can help prevent problems before they occur by teaching the parties coping mechanisms and communication techniques.