The following case studies are based on real scenarios we have encountered in our collaborative law practice. The names and details included, however, have been altered to protect confidentiality.
John and Martha
John and Martha were married and had two children. After they separated, Martha had concerns about John’s ability to share parenting responsibilities. Martha felt that she had shouldered the bulk of the parenting duties and that John was exhibiting behaviours that were concerning to her.
The couple’s financial affairs were straightforward. John and Martha earned approximately equal incomes and their property issues were not complicated.
We created a collaborative team that included two lawyers and two coaches. The lawyers provided legal information regarding parenting arrangements, the financial needs of the children, the financial needs of the couple and division of family property. After receiving this information, John and Martha attended very few meetings with the lawyers, as the focus of their discussions was primarily their parenting plan.
With the assistance from the coaches, John and Martha were able to successfully negotiate a parenting plan that 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. At the appropriate time, John and Martha proceeded to an uncontested divorce with neither party having to appear in court.
Gordon and Denise
Gordon was paying spousal support to Denise pursuant to an order of the court. However, the order did not stipulate when Gordon’s obligation to provide support would end. He wanted to retire, but Denise continued to require his support in order to meet her needs.
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. Accordingly, the professional collaborative team we assembled consisted of their two 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 may 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.
Using this information, Gordon and Denise, with the assistance of the professional team, were able to generate options that they then systematically narrowed down to a resolution that met their mutual interests. The lawyers then assisted Gordon and Denise with preparing documents that they needed to achieve a final resolution to the issue of support.
Jim and Lisa
Jim and Lisa had an eight-year relationship. The two had a daughter together and Lisa had a son from a previous relationship. Her son’s biological father continued to be involved in her son’s life.
Jim and Lisa struggled to develop a parenting plan that would allow Jim to continue to have a relationship with Lisa’s son, with whom Jim had developed a close relationship. Lisa was concerned it would mean limiting her own time with her son as the biological father spent time with him as well. Jim was concerned about losing his close relationship with the boy.
Jim and Lisa were able to work with coaches to develop a parenting plan that met both their interests. Jim was able to continue his relationship with Lisa’s son in a way that was satisfactory to all involved.
Jim and Lisa also had some property issues that were complicated. Through the collaborative process, they were able to uncover viable options that would not have been available to them through the court system.
At the end of the collaborative process, Jim and Lisa were able to communicate more effectively with each other. When they later experienced issues, they were able to return to the parenting coaches for assistance without having to re-engage their lawyers.