The majority of separating spouses in Ontario probably don't realize that more than 90% of all Ontario family law Court proceedings end with a settlement and not a trial. The fact is that almost all cases will settle and that it will NOT be after a trial where the Judge declares one side a winner and the other a loser. In most cases that is not how it works.
Family law litigation is really about when a file settles and not if it settles.
In my experience, the adversarial litigation process produces settlements not because they are the best outcomes but because one or both of the parents/parties give up, often due to emotional or financially exhaustion.
The financial and emotional destruction through the adversarial litigation process is staggering.
Collaborative practice puts the attention, the energy, the legal, financial, mental health and parenting expertise at the beginning of the process, attempting to minimize further devastation and polarization. The goal throughout all settlement discussions is to attain a mutually acceptable outcome.
Only you and your spouse can decide which approach is best for you.
To borrow an expression from the late Professor James Macleod, “I have toiled in the vineyards of marital discontent” for over 29 years. I love kids and although I did not go to law school to help kids, I can honestly say that since I have been practicing family law, kids have become my focus. My conclusion is that the best outcomes for kids are the ones where their separated parents are able to serve as role models on how to resolve disputes respectfully and with dignity. That is not an easy task.
The focus of collaborative practice is to identify each party’s “needs, goals and interests” and to work towards attaining those. In my view, the only way to achieve a long-term settlement is to make sure that the needs, goals and interests of both parties are being addressed.
One of the most important lessons that I learned during my journey as a family law lawyer in a non-collaborative file was that only a small amount of my time was actually spent dealing with issues that were legal in nature, while as much as 85% of my time was spent dealing with issues that involved parenting, mental health, substance abuse, and emotional and financial problems. Those are not legal issues. It does not make sense to pay a lawyer to deal with those matters.
Collaborative practice allows me to work with other professionals (financial, parenting, mental health) to use my legal expertise to help separated spouses negotiate outcomes that meet the needs of their children and each other to move forward in their new lives in a healthy, positive way.
Erik E. Grinbergs Barrister and Solicitor, Collaborative Lawyer
37 Church St.
St. Catharines, ON