Toronto Star

Dec. 27, 2002. 01:00 AM

Law movement avoids need for bitter divorces

A made-to-measure lawyer, Dec. 21.

Letter to the Editor from James C. MacDonald Toronto Star

Your feature on family law lawyers was a public service to be highly commended. However, it overlooked a new type of lawyer who, in the scenario portrayed in the feature, might be of more assistance to the wife and family than the traditional type operating within the adversary system.

Collaborative family law lawyers, as they are called, are part of a movement that came to Canada from the United States four or five years ago and is now established in several centres across the country, including Toronto, Ottawa, London and other communities in Ontario.

Collaborative family law lawyers are committed to settling cases without going to court. Rather than a battle to be won, they see a family dispute as a problem to be solved. Problem solving, however, can be done effectively only in a relatively cool environment. Therefore, collaborative lawyers would move quickly in the scenario presented to lower the emotional temperature.

In early private consultations, and in four-way meetings, they would help clients see how their anger and emotional conflicts affect the long-term interests of their children and themselves. The lawyers do this knowing that, deep down, most couples do not want to hurt their children or to cut off their noses to spite their faces. After the cooling out, co-operation and modern techniques of negotiation accomplish the rest. The result, in by far the greater number of cases, is a win-win settlement achieved with less stress and cost.

The collaborative process will not replace the adversary system completely, but as the process becomes better known, it will be the first choice for separating or divorcing couples with the adversary system a far distant second.

James C. MacDonald, President Toronto Collaborative Family Law Group Toronto

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