Child & Spousal Support
Binding Judicial Dispute Resolution Pilot for Family Law Cases Expanding Across Ontario
January 18, 2022
At Long Shariff & Associates, we believe in resolving matters using the most amicable method possible. While we are no strangers to a courtroom, our decades of combined experience have demonstrated again and again that using a goal-focused approach rather than a conflict-oriented one is the best choice in most cases. While traditional family litigation has its place in some situations, we believe it should always be saved as a last resort rather than the default option. Both of our firm’s partners, Jennifer Long and Romaana Shariff, are trained in collaborative family law and make this the primary focus of their respective practices.
Collaborative family law is a revolutionary way of resolving matrimonial disputes in a respectful manner, without going to court. When entering into the collaborative law process, both parties must commit to resolving their dispute in a respectful, honest and open manner, with full disclosure and cooperation. The practice makes use of neutral outside experts who work in conjunction with both lawyers to find mutually beneficial solutions to all outstanding issues.
Collaborative family law is premised around a commitment to exploring both traditional and creative options. As practitioners, we aim to find a resolution for each client without pitting the parties against one another, as can happen with more traditional dispute resolution processes.
To begin the collaborative process, parties enter into a participation agreement. The agreement outlines a set of guidelines that include, amongst other things, civility between the parties, cooperation in producing necessary documents, and a commitment to work together in good faith. Parties must also agree not to threaten or initiate litigation during the collaborative process.
The terms of the participation agreement may also include the use of neutral experts such as parenting or family coaches to assist with matters involving children or financial advisors to assist with complex business issues. All experts and professionals must be trained in the collaborative family process, including lawyers for the parties. Parties must retain their own collaboratively trained lawyer to guide them through the process. If either party seeks court intervention during the collaborative process, both parties must retain new lawyers to represent them.
The parties and their lawyers meet regularly to move matters forward productively and resolve any pressing issues that may arise quickly. The goal of the collaborative process is to produce a signed separation agreement that represents a fair and mutually acceptable resolution of the issues.
The benefits of collaborative family law are numerous and vast. At Long Shariff & Associates we believe most family disputes, regardless of how contentious or complex, can benefit from the collaborative approach.
Collaborative family law is designed to be a non-adversarial, respectful process. This is far better for the mental health of each party and their family than a traditional courtroom trial both in the short term and the long run. Litigation is inherently more combative and tends to foster hostile and adversarial communication between the parties. Furthermore, litigation is a lengthy, drawn-out, intensely time-consuming process that is extremely expensive, adding even more stress to an already stressful situation.
In contrast, collaborative family law focuses on finding solutions and preserving mental health and family relations. As a result, the collaborative process moves far more expeditiously while promoting positive parenting and other familial relationships over time.
Collaborative law is usually far less costly than litigation. Even with family experts and/or financial specialists involved, the process is often much more efficient and streamlined than litigation, saving time and money in the long run. Since the process is not subject to the same delays inherent in litigation, collaborative law tends to result in far faster resolutions. The lines of communication remain open between the parties on urgent or pressing issues so the participants and their lawyers can work together to find a creative and suitable solution to resolve them expeditiously.
Yes. In fact, highly contentious disputes often benefit most from collaborative family law. When emotions are running high, litigation tends to heighten those feelings and fans the flames of resentment. In contrast, collaborative family law is specifically designed to curb anger and deal with underlying or overt emotional issues. Third-party specialists are often utilized to help neutralize the instinct to argue and assist parties to work towards a resolution. If the parties find it impossible to engage productively, the process can be customized to move forward without direct contact. Even if a couple has initiated litigation, they can mutually agree to withdraw from the process and attempt to resolve matters in a more constructive manner through collaborative family law.
Collaborative family law is particularly beneficial in highly contentious disputes, where there is a significant imbalance of power between the parties or a history of domestic abuse. The process can be completely customized to keep the parties separate, shield vulnerable parties from abuse, and provide a sense of security and protection.
Whether you are facing a separation, divorce or other complex family dispute, the family lawyers at Long Shariff & Associates can help find a resolution through collaborative family law. As a team, our goal is for each client to walk away from the process with an agreement or solution they feel is fair and appropriate to their specific circumstances. To speak with a member of our family law team about your situation and your goals, please reach out to us online, or call us at 905-591-4545.
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