The primary goal of the Collaborative Family Law process is to settle unresolved issues involved in a separation and divorce in a non-adversarial manner. This method of dispute resolution is a relatively new option for separating couples. It began in the United States in the early 1990s and first became available in Vancouver in 1999.
There are now over 200 practice groups in a growing list of countries which includes England, Ireland, Scotland, Switzerland, Austria, Australia, and, of course, the United States and Canada. An international organization was founded over six years ago and is known as The International Academy of Collaborative Professionals. That organization includes lawyers, health care professionals and financial specialists.
At the 7th Annual Forum of The International Academy of Collaborative Professionals held in San Diego, California during October 2006, there were almost 600 attending registrants. All were enthusiastic about the benefits to their clients of resolving disputes in a non-adversarial, non-litigation manner. In addition, the lawyers were equally if not more enthusiastic about the ability to practice with less stress and the delivery to the client of a better product at a typically much reduced emotional and financial cost.
The Collaborative Law process means that the parties decide at the outset not to go to Court. With the help of their professionals, they try to minimize, if not eliminate, the negative economic, social and emotional consequences that often result from "going to Court". Rather than looking backwards and attempting to paint one's spouse in as negative a light as possible, the Collaborative Law process looks to the future in assisting parties with matters of parenting, custody, guardianship, access, division of assets, child and spousal support.
It is well acknowledged that often it is the children who suffer the most when families separate and legal proceedings take place. The Collaborative Law process seeks to minimize, if not eliminate, the stress and negativity that is often visited upon children when divorce litigation takes place.
In a perfect world, divorce would not occur and parents and children would live happily ever after. Unfortunately, that does not always occur. However, when divorce becomes a reality, an amicable divorce is possible, and the Collaborative process makes that possibility more likely.