How you proceed forward once the decision to separate has been taken by one spouse requires some consideration. The values, work ethics, and best practices of the lawyer you retain are just as important as the forum in which you proceed. It is also important that you and your lawyer see eye to eye on your goals and wishes being negotiated for your family’s future. Benefits of a Collaborative Separation Agreement Collaborative negotiations hold confidentiality, full disclosure, and participation by each spouse as foundational principles. It is the openness, vetting of options, and complete sharing of not only financial information but future looking relationships, particularly where spouses are stakeholders and shareholders of the family business. It is a dynamic process moving from goals, disclosure, and defining the issues to weighing the risks and benefits of various options to agreeing on a comprehensive resolution. The agreed terms then form the separation agreement executed by the parties with counsel witnessing signatures. The pace of the negotiations is set by the spouses. Access to jointly retained professionals means costs is lower and findings are released at the same time to both parties. The ‘war of the experts’ is replaced with accessible shared foundational knowledge from which exploratory discussions can lead to solid decisions. The cooperative nature of the sessions with spouses and their relevant necessary multidisciplinary professionals present reduces duplication, complexity, and cost. Collaborative Separation Agreements Aren’t for Everyone Neither spouse can be compelled to engage in the process. Upon committing to do so, each party and their respective lawyers will be asked to review and sign a participation agreement. A refusal to sign or a breach of the commitment agreement immediately terminates the process. A spouse with intent to obfuscate their financial circumstances or to mislead the participants will cause prompt closure of the process. The likely turn will be to court where financial disclosure is mandatory drawing cost sanctions for failure to meet the statutory requirement. Sometimes heated discussions or emotional flare-ups occur and understandably so. This may be a very difficult time and legal issues can be overwhelming and confusing. Separation disrupts work /life/ health routines. To get back on track, the involvement of a facilitator will be to manage and redirect communications from a harmful past to constructive future -looking new paths. Collaborative Separation Agreements & Negotiation in Toronto If you choose to proceed with a collaborative separation agreement, you will want an experienced professional to guide you through the process and lead negotiation efforts. Lorisa Stein is an experienced family law lawyer who has been practices, mentors, and teaches the collaborative process. She assists professionals and family business owners resolve legal issues as they transition from common law and marriage separations. To schedule a confidential consultation with Lorisa, contact her through her website or call her direct line at (416) 596-8081.