Monday, November 24, 2008

A Marathon Collaborative Success Story

Lawyers Danny Zack and Susan Kurtz of the Collaborative Law Group of the Kootenays are relaxing into the thrill of feeling a job well done. Together they recently assisted a couple to a resolution of all legal issues arising from the breakdown of their marriage, while at the same time, protecting the child from negative effects of the separation, in a marathon collaborative process that took 3 days. Six weeks ago, Danny and Susan agreed to attempt to help these opposing parties come to a resolution in a compressed period of time. The couple had been married for 15 years and the legal issues they faced as a result of uncoupling were not simple. The case involved children, spousal support and property division. One parent wanted to relocate from the Kootenays to Calgary with the children. The other parent was strongly opposed to the idea. One parent wanted spousal support and the other parent did not want to contribute to a perceived voluntary state of unemployment.

Danny Zack flew from his office in Vancouver to Castlegar on a Wednesday to assist this Kootenay couple in a team that included Nelson collaborative lawyer, Susan Kurtz. The first 4-way meeting took place on Wednesday afternoon. After a one hour supper break, the collaborative process resumed on Wednesday evening. The parties and lawyers reconvened on Thursday and Friday for more collaborative sessions. The parties reached mutually agreeable resolutions on all legal issues by Friday. Lawyer Susan Kurtz drafted the Agreement on Friday and the lawyers met on Saturday morning to make revisions to the draft Agreement. On Saturday, the parties signed the formal Separation Agreement, and thereby legal issues from the uncoupling were resolved.

The whole exercise cost each party a fraction of the legal fees it would have cost to resolve these legal issues through the court process. But even better, both parents report that their ability to effectively communicate with each other about their children noticeably improved within 24 hours of reaching a final settlement. Says he, “We haven’t been able to talk like this in a few years. It’s a miracle. I know I made the right choice when I retained a lawyer with the Collaborative Law Group of the Kootenays.”

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

CBC Films Reality TV Collaborative Divorce

Don’t miss the film “How to Divorce and Not Wreck the Kids” scheduled to be aired on CBC on January 9, 2009. Danny Zack, a lawyer member of our Collaborative Law Group of the Kootenays, is one of two lawyers featured in a divorce done the collaborative way on camera. The case involved a couple named Lionel and Sally from Vancouver Island who agreed to be filmed. The case involved a 17 year marriage and 2 children. The producer of this documentary says this: Parents contemplating divorce are barraged with “divorce from hell” stories – the kind that leave children scarred for life. But there is another reality. Grass roots Canadians are at the heart of a quiet revolution – couples working on “good” divorces, which acknowledge that the end of a marriage isn’t the end of a family. How to Divorce and Not Wreck the Kids takes viewers directly into the heart of one of the most emotionally devastating life transitions, as three courageous Canadian couples determined to keep the needs of their children front and centre, separate on camera. Roland and Carolyne use a do-it-yourself divorce kit. Mike and Melissa work with a mediator. And Lionel and Sally use a new and controversial process called collaborative divorce. How to Divorce and Not Wreck the Kids offers the latest compelling evidence to convince separating parents to keep conflict away from their kids.

How to Divorce and Not Wreck the Kids airs on CBC Television Thursday January 8th at 9pm.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Collaborative Divorce

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.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Where to Find a Collaborative Lawyer

It is a good idea for the two of you to work together at selecting lawyers to carry you through the collaborative process. You both want to hire lawyers who have a proven demonstrated history of being able to successfully work together to bring parties to resolution through the collaborative process. Not all lawyers can work collaboratively. Lawyers are traditionally trained to work in opposition with each other, trained to think in the eventual possibility that a judge will determine who wins. Traditional lawyers do not think in terms of resolution because they are trained to think in terms of winning and losing, right and wrong. In the collaborative process everyone is a winner and there are no losers. If you use the collaborative process, you want to avoid hiring lawyers who have no experience working together in this new collaborative way, or worse yet, two lawyers who don't even know each other! In the old school way of doing things, one of you would go talk to a lawyer, that lawyer would promptly write a nasty letter or start a lawsuit or both, which in turn would prompt the other of you to engage what you hoped was an even nastier lawyer. The unspoken goal, traditionally, was to hire two sharpshooters for a shootout in court, with only one expected to be left standing in the end, in an attempt to prove who is right. When you are proceeding in the collaborative way, you want to avoid hiring lawyers who predominantly have honed their skills in the court room battlefield. But where do you find two experienced collaborative lawyers who have worked together for opposing parties? The answer is in a Collaborative Law Practice Group. A Collaborative Practice Group is a group of lawyers, coaches, child specialists and financial planners who have formed a group in their local community for the purpose of working together collaboratively. Members of a collaborative practice group regularly get together to practice their collaborative skills and to take further practice trainings together. The members of the Collaborative Practice Group of the Kootenays are all also Members of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP). There are Collaborative Law Practice Groups now in every major centre in North America, and in 14 countries worldwide. You can link to any of these worldwide practice groups and you can find a collaborative lawyer from the IACP website. (