Collaborative Practice - Changing The Face Of Family Law
A method of family law practice that stresses the interests of children and promotes cooperation among the parties rather than confrontation in the courtroom is growing rapidly in Australia, with more lawyers and professionals being trained.
At the October 2011 International Collaborative Practice Forum in San Francisco nearly 700 Collaborative Practitioners worked on skill building and undertook advanced programmes as well as a basic introductory Collaborative training. Attendees were reminded that as more families hear about Collaborative Practice, it is fast becoming the preferred choice for many people who are seeking divorces or sorting out child custody and property issues.
Collaborative Practice is a relatively new form of dispute resolution, pioneered in the late 1980s by Minneapolis family lawyer Stuart G. Webb. Primarily used in divorce where children, property or other matters need resolution. Collaborative Practice enables families to privately address issues while minimising conflict and bitterness. It is a rapidly growing choice for settling family and other disputes throughout the United States, England and now Australia.
In Collaborative Practice, the separating couple and their lawyers agree at the outset to try to work things out through consultation and open communication, using lawyers and sometimes other experts to assist in the details. They all agree in advance not to go to court or use the information shared in collaborative discussions in litigation.
The International Academy of Collaborative Professionals estimates that there are more than 10,000 professionals in North America who have gone through training for collaborative practice. IACP’s members are lawyers, counselors, financial experts and others trained to assist clients in reaching satisfactory outcomes without litigation. The concept also is spreading in the U.K., Australia, New Zealand and in Europe and Asia.
More than 20 family lawyers and other professionals have undergone training here in South Australia, which qualifies them to handle collaborative cases under Australian law.
Swan Family Lawyers has been offering collaborative divorce to clients since 1999 and now finds that it is a large part of Christopher Swan’s practice.
“I used to consider myself a hard-charging lawyer out to get what I could for my client, but what I’ve learned is that everyone benefits when they sit down together and work out solutions to problems that they understand far better than any judge or third party. Keeping kids from getting damaged, saving a family business, working out special needs for family members are outcomes best reached through respectful communications, not courtroom battles,” Christopher Swan.