Sorting out Separation with Collaborative Practice
Parenting and Financial Matters

What happens emotionally when a relationship ends?
The ending of a relationship, especially when there are children involved, leaves a family with so many mixed emotions like, anger, sorrow, relief, anxiety and fear. It can be both confusing and confronting and for many, overwhelming. Each person in the family will experience their own unique set of emotions and in their own individual timing. Each person will express these emotions in different ways and with different people. So with all this going on, how can you be expected to rationally sort out your parenting and financial arrangements? In addition to making sure that you take care of yourself and seek professional help if you need to, there are several processes that can help.

What options do you have to help manage this unforeseen change in your life?
You can attend mediation at a Family Relationships Centre. Relationships Australia NSW has 6 of these centres which you can find out about on our website. This is the least expensive process and is highly effective. Or you could engage a lawyer and go down the traditional litigation process. However, litigation especially if you end up in court, can be the most expensive process both financially and emotionally. Then there is Collaborative Practice which is somewhere in between. It combines the best of mediation while you also receive on the spot legal and financial advice.

How can I think about collaboration when I am angry, sad and separating?
Collaborative Practice is not about being nice to each other while you separate, even though that can be helpful. It is more about working together in a business like way, to ensure the best outcome for your children and yourselves in order to secure the best possible future for everyone. Importantly, the professional team around you collaborates. The specially trained family lawyers rather than arguing against each other will both represent you and work openly together to ensure a fair outcome. Financial specialists are neutral and so they won’t present different figures and different arguments about them to ensure one parent is better off than the other. They act as a neutral advisor to both parents to ensure that both are as well off as possible financially in the future, which of course is also the best outcome for the children. Then you also have a coach who helps you with managing your emotions and your communications. Your communication is particularly important so that it is clear, non-abusive and efficient enabling you to minimise costs rather than arguing over misunderstandings.

So what is Collaborative Practice?
Collaborative Practice is a uniquely holistic way of managing separation that aims to reach resolution without involving the court system. Since 1990 it has spread widely throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, the UK and Australia.

In some ways it is similar to mediation, in that it be used to resolve issues around parenting, property, finance, communication and children’s needs without going to court. It is different in that it also allows for real time legal and financial advice from collaboratively trained experts. Unlike with legally assisted mediation the family lawyers and financial advisors involved with collaborative practice, have had additional training in working in this way.

At the outset, all parties sign a Participation Agreement, wherein everyone agrees to behave in a respectful manner to each other and provide the relevant information needed to create a fair agreement at the end. You and your lawyers will communicate with each other in face-to-face meetings, telephone conferences, and written correspondence.

There will be five way-meetings with each or you and your lawyer as well as the case manager/coach who will also help with communication and emotions. In these meetings everyone can share their views, concerns and important information in order to reach an agreement. Once an agreement is made, it can be made into a legal order by the court.

Collaborative Practice can be a particularly attractive option when children are present in the case. By avoiding the adversarial litigation process but still having legal and financial advice it makes it possible to preserve working relationships between both parents as they take care of their children into the future. Research from the Australian Institute of Family Studies, Family Transitions and others has shown just how important this is I minimising the impact of separation on children.

While Collaborative Practice is usually more expensive than mediation it is usually less expensive than litigation. Costs depend not just on the complexity of the matter but also the willingness of parents to work together rather than against each other. After 10 years of providing this service Relationships Australia NSW success rate is between 80 and 90%.

Contact Us
For details about making an appointment or finding out more about Collaborative Practice at Relationships Australia NSW, please email enquiries@ransw.org.au or call Eden So on (02) 88748023.

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