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Update on Collaborative Family Law

Collaborative Family Law has been an option to resolve marital breakdowns for over a year in Norfolk County. Where are we now? There are 5 local lawyers who have had level I training; most will be undergoing level II training in October 2006. Several have had few cases; others have had a number of CFL files. It has been a challenging year. There is no substitute for experience and further training. That being said, the following is an overview of a successful case. It involved a 2nd generation family business with adult children. The option for the children to continue the business, was important. The parties were asset rich/cash poor.The Wife wanted out of the home (from which the business operated). We arranged interim financing, so she could purchase her home. Valuation was a significant issue (land, equipment and the business). Three different experts valued different facets of the business. The parties split all costs. In the Court stream, each party would have had their own valuator assess each asset. There were complicated tax issues, of how to finance the buy out to the mutual tax advantage of each party. One Accountant was jointly retainer to advise on a variety of scenarios. The process was difficult. The parties experienced emotional outbursts and reticence in dealing with one another. By going back to the principals of CFL (full and complete disclosure, respectful discussions and focussing on the needs of the parties), the lawyers and clients regained focus; and achieved a resolution that met the needs of this particular family. It took 6 months, 12 meetings averaging 2 hours and involved 4 experts. It was not cheap in terms of money and emotion. However, the lawyer time, duration of the process and the total fees were substantially less than going to Court. The results met the clients needs through this process. It was timely, cost effective, respectful, needs based and civilized. While CFL is not for everyone, my experience is that many separating couples should seriously consider this process. Personally, it was rewarding to perform the historic legal role as a healer of conflict. Should you have any questions for Ask A Lawyer, please direct them to the Simcoe Reformer or ask a lawyer of your choice.

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