Northern Beaches Mums Group
Northern Beaches Mums Group

Collaborative Family Law: how does it work and is it right for you?

When you are going through a separation or divorce, keeping in control of the process is an important part of securing the best settlement outcome possible and in turn, it enables you to confidently move forward with your life. Collaborative family law is one way of achieving this.

The Collaborative Law process is a widely used form of dispute resolution for separating couples that allow both parties and their lawyers to enter into a contract (“Participation Agreement”) to constructively negotiate an outcome without resorting to litigation. It has an emphasis on problem-solving, negotiation and cooperation to settle the conflict and enables Lawyers to collaborate with other relevant professionals as well as their clients to respectfully resolve disputes and, ultimately, stay out of Court.

Want to Know More about Collaborative Law?

Here are some helpful answers to the commonly asked questions about Collaborative family law practice.

Is Collaborative Law right for me?

Collaborative Family Law may be an option for you if both you and your former partner are seeking to resolve matters as amicably as possible and without recourse to the Court. It can be an empowering process as it allows the separating couple to create their best possible agreement and resolve their disputes respectfully without the need for court intervention, whilst still having the support and guidance from a collaborative trained family lawyer and potentially additional professionals such as financial specialists.

However, there are circumstances where collaborative law would not be an appropriate method of resolving your family law dispute. For example, if there has been a history of violence or there is an existing and clear power imbalance between couples, it is unlikely that collaborative family law will be suitable for you and your family.

Collaborative law would also not be appropriate if you or your former partner are not able or willing to be transparent as transparency is an important part of the collaborative process.

At Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers, we have Collaboratively trained Family Lawyers who can assist in assessing whether your matter would be best resolved by way of collaborative law or another approach.

What’s different about Collaborative Law?

The collaborative approach is centred on honesty and cooperation, without the threat of litigation. All matters raised and discussed through the collaborative law process are confidential. In this sense, the collaborative law process is much like an extended mediation process, which allows issues to be discussed and resolved over several meetings. If parties start the process of resolving their family law matter collaboratively then decide to cease the process without resolving the family law matter, they are required to retain new legal representation. This means that attempts to resolve a matter collaboratively do not prejudice future attempts to resolve matters by way of litigation or otherwise.

What are some of the requirements?

Couples who choose collaborative practice family law must commit to:

  • Being respectful
  • Coming to a mutually acceptable settlement
  • Communicating and sharing information transparently while making full disclosure
  • Creating solutions that take the highest priorities into consideration, e.g. putting your children first
  • Listening objectively and remembering that your needs and those of your partner require equal consideration

What are the benefits?

Apart from avoiding court proceedings, collaborative family law allows you to:

  • have control over the process and cost of your settlement
  • set a time frame to have the matter resolved
  • communicate effectively as everyone has a common goal
  • minimise the stress of the settlement

Collaborative family law can also help you and your former partner have a more amicable co-parenting relationship, as well as help to protect existing joint business interests.

Is it like a mediation? Is there a Mediator to help us?

Collaborative practice in some ways is similar to mediation in that the purpose is to help you and your former partner reach an agreement as to either ongoing interim matters or finalising your matter generally.

A difference between collaborative practice and mediation, however, is that the former allows you to have a team to assist you both. This team can include various professionals such as Family Lawyers who are collaboratively trained, Accountants, Financial Advisers, and Child Psychologists.

Although there is no Mediator, the process almost always involves a Coach. A Coach acts as a neutral party and guides you through the process. A Coach can help facilitate discussions between you and your former partner, the idea of which is to help you reach a resolution.

Why do you agree to stay out of Court?

One of the great hallmarks of Collaborative Family Law Practice is that both you and your former partner agree to not go to Court while the collaborative process is ongoing. The looming ‘threat’ of Court is then not hanging over either of you as you come together with your team to finalise your Family Law matter. By eliminating this potential threat, you and your former partner can negotiate in good faith with one another. This is especially important when you have a continuing relationship with each other because of children.

Speak to our Collaboratively trained Family Lawyers to find out if collaborative family law is the right choice for you and your family. We can help you determine if it is the best way forward and walk you through the process from start to finish.

At Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers we are specialised in the resolution of complex family law matters.  If you have recently separated or have a Family Law enquiry, you can contact us on (02) 9437 0010 or send us an email to to discuss your matter in complete confidence.

About the Author:

Lisa Wagner is Managing Director and Principal of Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers. Lisa is an Accredited Family Law specialist, a Collaboratively trained Family Lawyer and a nationally registered Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner. Lisa has close to 30 years’ experience as a specialist family lawyer, experienced litigator and skilful negotiator in all family law matters.


These posts are only intended as an overview or comment on current issues that may interest you and are not legal advice. If there are any matters that you would like us to advise you on, then please contact us.