Collaborative law case studies

The following cases are based on real scenarios we have encountered in our practice. We have changed the names and some details to protect confidentiality.

John and Martha

John and Martha were married with two children. After they separated, Martha had concerns about John’s ability to share parenting responsibilities. She felt that she had shouldered the bulk of the parenting duties and that John had some worrying behaviours.

The couple’s financial affairs were straightforward. John and Martha earned approximately equal incomes, and their property issues were uncomplicated.

We created a collaborative team that included two independent lawyers and two coaches. The lawyers provided legal information regarding parenting arrangements, the couple’s and the children’s financial needs, and the division of family property. After getting this information, John and Martha attended very few meetings with the lawyers, as the focus of their discussions was primarily their parenting plan.

With coaching help, John and Martha negotiated a parenting plan they both felt met their family’s needs. The coaches also helped them establish rules for communication that reduced the tension between them.

The lawyers were involved with the division of John and Martha’s family property and determining how to best meet their children’s financial needs. The parenting plan and their financial settlement were then incorporated into a comprehensive separation agreement. Once John and Martha had been separated for one year, they proceeded to an uncontested divorce with neither party having to appear in court.

Gordon and Denise

Gordon had been paying spousal support to Denise following a court order. However, the order did not state when Gordon’s obligation to provide support would end. He wanted to retire, but Denise continued to need his financial support.

Gordon and Denise’s situation involved complicated legal questions, but they didn’t have any communication issues that would prevent them from collaborating. Also, their children were financially independent adults. The professional collaborative team we assembled consisted of two independent lawyers and a financial specialist.

The lawyers provided Gordon and Denise with legal information about the underlying principles of spousal support and how the courts might respond to the complicated factors involved in their situation.

The financial specialist assisted the two with developing budgets and information that they would need to help them make decisions.

With the assistance of the professional team, Gordon and Denise were able to come up with options that they then narrowed down to a resolution that met their mutual interests. The lawyers then helped prepare the documents Gordon and Denise needed to achieve a final resolution to the issue of support.

Sherina and Jamal

Sherina and Jamal were ending an eight-year cohabitation relationship. The two had a daughter together, and Sherina had a son from a previous relationship. Her son’s biological father continued to be involved in her son’s life.

Sherina and Jamal struggled to develop a parenting plan that would allow Jamal to continue to have a relationship with Sherina’s son, with whom Jamal had developed a close relationship. Sherina was concerned it would mean limiting her own time with her son as the biological father spent time with him as well. Jamal was concerned about losing his close relationship with the boy.

Sherina and Jamal were able to work with coaches to develop a parenting plan that met both their interests. Jamal could continue his relationship with Sherina’s son in a way that was satisfactory to all involved.

Sherina and Jamal also had some complicated property issues. Through the collaborative process, they uncovered workable options that would not have been available to them through the court system.

At the end of the collaborative process, Sherina and Jamal were able to communicate with each other better. When they later experienced issues, they returned to the parenting coaches for assistance without having to re-engage their lawyers.

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