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Collaborative Practice is an alternative way to resolve disputes. The aim of Collaborative Practice is to find a deep, equitable and sustainable solution for people who are in dispute. Collaborative practise is a structured, creative and principled process to help parties reach the best agreement possible for them at the time. The approach addresses the needs of all involved, and in family disputes, the needs of the whole family. Resolution is achieved through the participation of both parties meeting together at the same table, often with the help of other practitioners including lawyers, coaches, financial neutrals, child specialists etc. The resolution is based on an open sharing of all relevant information and a commitment to reach agreement, without the financial and other costs of Court litigation. The success and effectiveness of the process depends on the honesty, co-operation and integrity of the participants. It is geared towards the future and towards the wellbeing of all the parties. The essence of the process is that it is in the best interest of the participants to try to resolve the disputes in a non-confrontational way.


Collaborative practice has taken root in Ireland, particularly in the family law area. Couples, with the help of their lawyers, coaches, financial and child neutrals, control the process and the outcome in a climate of co-operation. This reduces the stress inherent in many family law disputes. Trained practitioners assist the couple at every stage of the process and the team can focus on achieving a resolution free from the threat of court litigation. Coaches can be very effective as part of the collaborative process to help couples and their children deal with the many emotional conflicts of marital and family breakdown. The process focuses on the interests of the parties and their children. Collaborative Practice allows the parties to maintain their dignity, lessens hostility, reduces the negative impact on the children and sets the stage for getting on with life in a constructive manner. The process allows the parties to make their own decisions and to have full control over the final outcome rather than handing it over to third parties for decision. The parties negotiate directly with each other rather than through professionals and retain ownership of the process and the final agreement.


The process will begin when one of the parties embarking on a separation or divorce makes contact with a Counsellor, Mediator, Lawyer, Child Specialist or Financial Specialist. They can then be put in contact with the other necessary practitioners that may be needed to commence the process. All negotiations take place with the parties present. The Practitioners role is to guide and advise the parties towards the best solution to the dispute. While legal advice is an integral part of the process, the parties make all of the decisions. The Practitioners use their skills in conflict resolution to help the parties reach their best outcome.


The process is flexible and can expand or contract to meet your needs. In general it takes between three to seven meetings to resolve all the issues that can be encountered in a separation of divorce. These meetings can be spaced with the appropriate intervals between them or indeed can follow on very quickly depending on the particular needs of the parties. Each party prepares for the meeting in advance, whether through meeting their coaches, financial neutrals, child specialists, or their lawyers as is required. Once issues are agreed, the lawyers then draft a binding Agreement, or in family disputes a Terms of Consent which can be ruled by the Court.


Collaborative practitioners will agree an hourly rate in advance. You therefore will be able to control your own costs by dictating how much time you spend with each practitioner in order to find a solution. The costs are more transparent and controllable in these circumstances than in the traditional adversarial court application for separation or divorce.


The success rate for Collaborative Law is very high, however, if either of the parties to a dispute decides to discontinue the process, or it is not possible to continue for other reasons, both lawyers must withdraw from the process and both parties can then engage new lawyers to go to Court on their behalf.

Litigation differs very significantly from Collaborative Practice. Everyone in the Collaborative Process must be open, honest and must make a full exchange of information and neither party takes advantage of the miscalculations or mistakes of the other. Both parties try to protect their children from the negative effects of their dispute. Parties make a genuine effort to meet the legitimate needs of the other and of their children in family disputes as opposed to tactical positioning which is usually backed by threats of litigation. The process is based on interest based bargaining rather than the positional posturing characteristic of the litigation route to separation and divorce.

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