- Increasing delays in the Family Court and high legal costs have led practitioners and clients to consider an alternative way of resolving family law disputes.
- ‘Collaborative practice’ allows parties to control the process through cooperation, respect, conflict minimisation and dispute resolution, without going to court. It involves confidential and transparent negotiations that take an interest-based ‘team approach’.
- When collaborative practice is appropriate for the particular dispute, it can result in many benefits to the parties.
Is it time to think outside the box when it comes to family law? Do practitioners need to change the way they look at resolving clients’ disputes?
With long delays in the Family Court (sometimes more than three years, not including delays in decisions being handed down and appeals), increasingly high legal bills, and clients unable to move on with their lives while they await resolution, perhaps it’s time to embrace collaborative practice.
Collaborative practice – a new way of working
Around 1990, the same time as the American boy bands like New Kids on the Block and the Backstreet Boys were being heavily promoted in Australia, an American by the name of Stu Webb decided that there had to be a better way to resolve family law disputes compared with the traditional litigious path.
He decided that he could assist parties to resolve their family law matters through negotiation. If the matter didn’t settle and one or both of the parties decided to travel the dreaded court path, he would withdraw from the case. This became known as collaborative practice.
Collaborative practice is about the parties controlling the process through cooperation, respect, conflict minimisation and dispute resolution, without going to court. It involves confidential and transparent negotiations that take an interest-based ‘team approach’. It’s a leap away from the win/lose adversarial mentality, to a process where parties and practitioners are committed to a win/win, future-focused outcome for those involved, without involving the court.