Hello, I am Andrew Feldstein of Feldstein Family Law Group, and today we will be talking about the various steps involved in the collaborative family law process (also known as “CFL”).
Before we begin, it is important to note that every lawyer and matter is different and unique. This may require or otherwise result in a slight modification to the process described here. So, if your CFL process is not identical to the one I describe, do not worry! After all, one of the beneficial features of this process is that it can be tailored and modified to better meet individual clients’ needs and preferences.
CFL requires each party to have their own collaborative lawyer. Because CFL is a unique process and involves a specific style of negotiation, lawyers must have special training in order to be able to represent you in the process. Retaining a collaborative lawyer is therefore an important first step. You will want to choose someone who has the required training, adequate experience; and someone who you work well with, trust, and feel comfortable around.
Once both parties have retained their respective CFL lawyers, the lawyers will contact one another and set up a telephone or face to face meeting. In this meeting, the lawyers will introduce themselves to one another (if they have not worked together previously), and will briefly go over your matter. The purpose of this meeting is to identify any urgent issues and prepare for the first CFL meeting. The lawyers will divide the work that needs to be done prior to the first meeting (for example, the preparation of the Participation Agreement and agenda). They will also decide when and where the first meeting will be, and determine deadlines for the exchange of the Participation Agreement and agenda – in order to give all parties involved an opportunity to review both documents. During this meeting, the lawyers will not make any decisions or concessions related to your matter.
Once the first meeting has been scheduled, your lawyer will likely schedule an individual meeting with you. This one on one meeting will serve to prepare you for the upcoming CFL meeting. Your lawyer will go over your interests and needs, and answer any questions that you may have about the process, the first meeting, or the Participation Agreement.
At the first CFL meeting, the parties will be introduced to the concept of CFL, and the lawyers will ensure that each party fully understands the process and its principles. The lawyers will go over the specifics of the Participation Agreement, and the parties will sign it.
Sometimes the parties may also sign the Participation Agreement prior to the first meeting, and they may get down to business at the first meeting. That depends on your individual needs and preferences.
Once the agreement has been signed, the lawyers will encourage the parties to share their objectives and reasons for selecting the CFL process. Having done that, the parties will then discuss their interests. Because CFL negotiations are interest based (as opposed to being rights based), these discussions ought to involve statements like “It is important to me that the children are happy” or “I am most concerned about my financial security”, instead of statements like “I want custody of my children” or “I am legally entitled to spousal support”. Starting with interests, instead of legal positions, helps with the uncovering of common grounds and builds a stronger framework for negotiations – because it is more than likely that both parties are equally invested in their children’s well-being, and their financial security.
During the first meeting, the lawyers will also ensure that each party understands the importance of full and frank financial disclosure; and they will set deadlines for any outstanding financial documents or statements.
Throughout the meeting, lawyers will take “process notes” – these notes will address the progress and agreements made during the meeting, and will be shared with the parties afterwards.
Unlike court, the CFL process is fairly informal and there are no rules on who speaks, for how long, so long as the parties follow the positive and respectful communication guidelines contained in the Participation Agreement.
All subsequent meetings will run in much the same way. As negotiations progress, the meetings will become more and more specific to your matter.
If the negotiations stall or if the parties want expert assistance with their matter, they may choose to integrate other professionals into the meetings. The parties could retain a financial expert, mental health professional, parenting coordinator, and / or divorce coach; and these professionals can help parties effectively and efficiently navigate their complex financial or child care matters.
Once all the issues related to your divorce or separation have been discussed and resolved, a separation agreement will be drafted. This written document will incorporate all the agreements and decisions made between the parties, and will be signed during the final four-way meeting.
At Feldstein Family Law Group, we have a number of lawyers who are trained in and have experience with CFL. For more information, please visit our website at www.separation.ca, or call us at 905-581-7222 to schedule an initial consultation and be sure to mention that you are interested in the CFL process.
Thank you for watching.