Jason Murphy

Collaborative Family Lawyers

Divorce Done Differently

Litigation merely continues conflict and offends nature; it does not heal.
– Confucius

Anyone who has been exposed to our legal system can tell you: the courts are a terrible place for families in crisis.

Conventional family law litigation can usually be described by the “three C’s”

The first C is conflict. Conventional family law is intensely adversarial. Each party hires their own lawyer and experts who put their case forward in the strongest terms.

The system has no good way of dealing with the emotional traumas and anxieties arising out of divorce. As a result, entrenched positions are frequently adopted, negotiation becomes impossible and parties are more focused than ever on fighting and winning.  Children are often collateral damage in the battle.

The second C is control. More specifically, the lack of it.

Conventional litigation can take years to resolve in our overwhelmed family courts. A conventional divorce application can involve you attending at court with your lawyer at least 3-5 times before your case even reaches trial.These attendances can take months to schedule. The couples themselves do little of the actual talking. And if they cannot agree on a settlement, the judge – a complete stranger – will make decisions that will effect the family for the rest of its life.

The final – and for most people, the biggest – C is costs. Conventional family litigation can be financially ruinous. Bills for legal fees and expert reports in contentious files routinely hit five and six figures, sometimes exceeding the value of the family’s net wealth.

The emotional costs are equally high. The common feelings of anxiety, anger, depression and betrayal are magnified by litigation. A couple that has spent years battling each other in the courts rarely comes out of the process ready to be good co-parents. Again, the children usually suffer the most.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

More lawyers, family therapists and financial professionals are offering an alternative to conventional family litigation. It goes by many titles, but is most commonly called “collaborative family practice” or “collaborative divorce.”

Under the collaborative approach, the couple makes a signed commitment to negotiate a separation agreement without going to court. The couple retains a team of divorce professionals to help them reach agreement.

A “family coach” assists each side with the emotional aspects of separation and develops a parenting plan that will preserve the children’s relationship with both parents and their extended families. The family coach also keeps negotiations moving forward on a timetable that works for everyone.

The next member of the team is the “financial specialist”. Instead of each party hiring their own financial experts, the parties jointly retain the financial specialist to gather, organize and analyze their financial information. The financial specialist then gives the parties a single report which outlines options for dividing their assets and liabilities. Instead of conflicting expert reports, the parties in collaborative divorce are literally working off the same page.

Finally, each party has its own collaboratively-trained lawyer. The lawyers help the clients negotiate a legally-binding separation agreement from the options developed with the family coach and financial specialist. Bargaining takes place in a way that respects legal rights but also focuses on preserving emotional, family and financial health.

The lawyers agree in advance that if the collaborative process fails, they cannot represent the parties in the court.  In other words, if your collaborative lawyer doesn’t help you, they lose you. This incentive keeps the lawyers focused on deal-making instead of fighting.

Collaborative divorce improves on all of the C’s of conventional divorce. Conflict is reduced because the parties commit from the beginning to focus on resolutions, not further fighting. Control is in the hands of the parties themselves and can go as quickly or as slowly as they require. Costs are reduced by the joint retainers of the financial specialist and family coach as well as by the reduced level of conflict and avoidance of court.

This doesn’t mean collaborative divorce is easy. There are no magic wands for taking away the pain, anxiety and financial ramifications of family breakdown.

But compared to the conventional system, collaborative divorce deals with these issues in a far more direct and healthy way, giving separating couples the best chance to move on with their lives through a separation agreement that is client-made, child-focused and cost-effective.

For a consultation about how collaborative family practice works, contact us to arrange an appointment with our collaborative family lawyer, Jason Murphy or visit