Separating couples face many decisions. One important early decision is what process to choose. Options include:

    Negotiation between the parties without outside assistance
    Mediation
    Collaborative Law
    Negotiation through lawyers
    Third party decision-making (arbitration or court)

Even if a tentative agreement is reached in the first two processes, it is extremely important that each party receive independent legal advice prior to finalizing a separation agreement.

Many clients prefer mediation or collaborative law to traditional processes, as it gives them greater control over the process and the outcome.

A recent survey by the International Association of Collaborative Professionals considered clients’ satisfaction with outcome and process.

About three-quarters of clients were satisfied with the collaborative process. Only 7% were dissatisfied with the process. Clients indicated the following aspects as positive:

    Respectfulness of the collaborative process
    Having freedom to express themselves
    Having meetings scheduled to accommodate their scheduled
    Disclosure of information
    The opportunity to address concerns directly with the other participant
    Restructuring of the family in a collaborative way
    Efficiency in reaching resolution
    How well the process focused on concerns important to the client
    Maintaining a constructive/healthy relationship with the other participant

Approximately three-quarters of all clients were extremely or somewhat satisfied with the outcome of their case. Thirteen percent were dissatisfied. It is important to note that of the cases in the survey, 90% settled and 10% terminated prior to the settlement of all issues. Client satisfaction was higher among cases that settled than in cases that terminated.

Clients were most satisfied with outcomes relating to children, and particularly with their relationship with their children following the collaborative process, and in how well the children’s interests were served in the process.

Collaborative law offers many benefits over traditional processes, as reported by participants. Other aspects of this approach to resolution of family issues will be explored in future posts.