Collaborative Resolution – an alternative approach to family disputes

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Collaborative Resolution offers an alternative approach to family disputes. Are you or a close family member going through a separation? Are there children involved? Are you struggling to reach agreements on property division or child contact issues but want to try and resolve these issues without it getting nasty? Do you desire a positive ongoing parenting relationship with your ex?

If your answers to all these questions is ‘Yes’, then this article is for you!

Ok, I appreciate that this article is starting to sound like an infomercial but that was simply to grab your attention. Now that I (hopefully) have it, I want to share with you an incredible dispute resolution method that I have a real passion for- Collaborative Resolution.

This isn’t going to be a dispute resolution method that is right for everyone. Separations are emotional and sad, but with Collaborative Resolution parties and lawyers navigate the issues that need to be resolved in a way that is respectful and amicable. Issues are resolved in a manner that aims to achieve a positive outcome for both parties.

Collaborative Resolution has been running in the US for nearly thirty years, but is still fairly unheard of in New Zealand (despite making its way to our shores in 2009). The method continues to move its way around the globe as family law practitioners jump at the chance to resolve separation matters in a respectful and positive manner. As this is a specialised area, family lawyers wanting to practice Collaborative Resolution are required to undergo specialised training. You will need to confirm that your family lawyer is a Collaborative practitioner before utilising this resource.

The goal of Collaborative Resolution is settlement and resolving disputes – the same as for the adversarial process.  The difference is in the environment. Instead of a battlefield fuelled by anger, blame, and/or revenge, the focus is on creative problem solving, where both parties and their lawyers work together face to face as a team to ultimately achieve a win-win result.

I asked Selina Trigg, current Chairperson of Collaborative Advocacy New Zealand (soon to be known as Collaborative Resolution New Zealand), a few questions on Collaborative Resolution.

What made you want to practice this dispute resolution process?  For a long time, I had been practicing with an increasing sense of discontent and a growing belief there had to be a better way to help families move through conflict.

 What do you think are the top three benefits for clients in choosing Collaborative Resolution in comparison to traditional dispute resolution methods? There are far more than three benefits for clients but I would say the number one benefit of the process is the manner in which it works to  de-escalate conflict, provides opportunities for some breakthroughs in understanding and healing between the parties and therefore it can set the parties up for their future relations on a firmer, more positive footing . Secondly, the process focuses on the future interests of the parties and their children, rather than legal entitlements and positions, so we find the outcomes are often very creative and bespoke to the parties. Finally, the ability the parties have to dictate the time frames within which things are done by. This allows parties to resolve things as quickly or as slowly as they like and takes regard of their psychological readiness to settle.

How successful is the process?  This depends on how you define “success” for a dispute resolution process. For me it is whether my clients have been able to leave the process with their relationship with one another and with their children in better shape than when they entered the process. In all of my collaborative cases (even the most challenging ones where I would describe the parties’ relationship as toxic) I have seen the parties work in a way that has far less acrimony and more time for considering each other than would have been the case had they not been working with collaborative lawyers and had they adopted litigation or a process that has a parallel litigation strategy running alongside it.

Rebecca Kroeze, Senior Associate, is Gaze Burt’s family law specialist. To find out more on resolving family law disputes collaboratively, please do not hesitate to contact Rebecca for a free 20-minute Collaborative Resolution consultation.

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