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Getting Started in the Collaborative Practice

  1. Retain your Collaborative Lawyer
    The names of the lawyers who can take you through the Collaborative Process are listed at our website: www.collaborativefamilylaw.ca.

    You and the other person will each need to retain your own lawyer. The lawyers do not all work at the same office, and they each will have different rates, and be available at different times.

    Generally, the lawyers in the Okanagan Collaborative Family Law Group have agreed to accept a retainer from you in the amount of $2,500.00. There may be exceptions, depending on each lawyer’s own office policy, however, we want to give the clients a sense that they will each have a similar obligation to their respective lawyers.

    You and the other person can talk about where the retainer will come from – it may have to come from a Line of Credit, or from some investments that you share. Talking about it and coming to an agreement would be a starting point for the transparency that you will experience within the Collaborative Process.

    The lawyer will send you a Retainer Agreement, confirming that you have retained them and the services they will provide to you in this Process.

  2. Meeting with a Divorce Coach
    You may have first heard about the Collaborative Process from a counsellor. If he or she is a member of the Okanagan Collaborative Family Law Group, he or she will have the requisite training to be a Divorce Coach (“Coach”) and to support you through this Process. It is important to work with a Coach. The Coach will assist you in clarifying communication approaches that you and the other person have developed and any changes that may be helpful as you continue in this Process. The Coach is not providing counselling for you or the other person.

    Each of you may meet with a separate Coach, or you may choose to work with one Coach. You will try to meet with your Coach at least once before (or soon after) the first 4 way meeting with the lawyers and clients.

    Each Coach will have his or her own rates and availability. You can inquire of them directly. Their contact information is located on our website at: www.collaborativefamilylaw.ca

  3. Reading and handouts
    Your lawyer or Coach may provide you with a variety of handouts including the “Participation Agreement” (the contract that forms the fundamental understanding and principles of the Collaborative Process). If you receive helpful information or handouts from any professional member of the group, please consider sharing that information with the rest of your team, because any general information can be helpful and supportive to both clients in this Process. If the other person receives information that you may not have received yet, this may have happened simply because a member of the professional team has not yet had the chance to share new material that has become available to him or her.

Preparing for the First Four Way Meeting with Lawyers

You and the other person have now each retained your own Collaborative Lawyer and you have informed the other person of the name of your lawyer. You may have already met with a Divorce Coach.

  1. Lawyer and Professional Team Communication
    The lawyers will contact each other and schedule the first 4 Way Meeting with you. They will be discussing things that will make the 4 way meeting less difficult for each of you – things such as information that will be helpful to have for the meeting, the possible agenda items, any special needs that you may have, any “pressing issues” (or “burning issues” that must be addressed before the next meeting) and communication considerations. If you have already met with a Coach, he or she may have assisted the lawyers in discussing particular communication issues and considerations with them. If you have not met with a Coach, the lawyers may discuss who would be a good match for you and the other person and make a specific referral for you to a Coach.
  2. Parenting After Separation Seminar
    If you have children, we recommend that you participate in the free, three-hour Parenting After Separation seminar. To register, contact 250-860-3181 in Kelowna or 250-492-5814 in Penticton. Keep your original “certificate of attendance” when the course is completed.
  3. Read the following handouts before the first 4 Way Meeting
    1. Participation Agreement
    2. The Process – flowchart
    3. Goals and Interests
    4. Expectations of Clients and Lawyers
    5. Suggestions for Communication in Four Way Meetings
    6. Effective Communication Skills
    7. Fundamental Truths About Conflict and Interpersonal Relationships
    8. Information Gathering forms (income summary chart, assets and debts chart)
  4. Agenda for the First Meeting
    The first 4 way meeting will be approximately 2 hours long. You and the other person and each of your lawyers will review the Participation Agreement and if you agree to proceed with a Collaborative Process, then we will all sign 4 copies of the Participation Agreement, and each of you and each lawyer will keep one original copy. The discussion will then continue with an exploration of your goals, interests and values. These are the objectives which will guide you through the Process. We will talk about ‘homework’ that needs to be completed before the next 4 way meeting, such as scheduling other Professional Team contacts (with Financial Specialists, Child Specialists and/or Coaches). We will also schedule our next 4 way meeting.

Between the 4 Way Meetings with Lawyers

  1. The lawyers will take turns preparing the Progress Notes after each 4 way meeting and will circulate them as soon as possible among the four of us: the “Team”. The Progress Notes will be a summary of notes taken on a flipchart or by hand, at the 4 way meeting. Please review the Progress Notes and let your lawyer or the Team know if any changes are required. The Progress Notes form the record of the discussions at the meetings, and set out the tasks that each member of the Team is to complete before the next meeting.
  2. Review the Progress Notes for your ‘homework’ and try to address this as soon as you reasonably can. Delays in completing the assigned tasks can lead to postponement of the meetings. Meetings can be challenging to re-schedule since we need to reconcile at least 4 people’s schedules. Let the team know, as soon as possible, if you are having difficulty completing your tasks.
  3. You can expect to schedule a meeting with your Coach a 4 way meeting with the lawyers, in order to talk about what part of the communication during the meeting was successful, and what part of the communication needs more work or attention. Your Coach will convey this information to the lawyers.
  4. You may also schedule a meeting with your Coach shortly before the next 4 way meeting with the lawyers, to help you prepare for the next meeting. You and the other person will be learning how to communicate effectively. This will include learning empathic listening (i.e., how to hear and convey to the other person that you have heard their concern), as well as how to communicate your own important needs and information to the other person in a way that he or she can actually hear what you are saying.
  5. If you have children, you may expect to schedule a meeting with a Child Specialist to assist you and the other person in working out a Parenting Plan, or to discuss co-parenting from separate homes or other things that may arise regarding your children. Neither you, nor the other person will have your children meet with a Child Specialist unless that was agreed to in advance by both parents.
  6. If you have complex financial matters, you may expect to schedule a meeting with a neutral Accountant, a Business Valuator, a Tax or Financial Planner. Neither you, nor the other person will select a neutral Financial Specialist to be a member of the Team, without the agreement of the rest of the Team. The Financial Specialists who are members of the Okanagan Collaborative Family Law Group are listed at our website at: www.collaborativefamilylaw.ca
  7. The lawyers, and possibly the other Professional Team members, will be communicating between the 4 way meetings, debriefing on the previous 4 way meeting and working out the details for the next 4 way meeting.