What is Collaborative Practice, exactly?

A question we’re often asked! Collaborative practice in family law is a means of reaching settlement after separation that aims to achieve a mutually satisfactory outcome with minimal conflict. Collaborative family law practice adopts a holistic, problem solving approach to family law matters as opposed to a traditional adversarial and litigation based response.A collaborative approach acknowledges the emotional, as well as the legal and financial aspects of ending a relationship in order to achieve a respectfully negotiated outcome for all members of the family.

How does collaborative practice work?

The first step to collaboratively resolving family law issues is for each party to enter into a written agreement to follow the collaborative process. This includes agreeing that a litigious approach, ie. going to court, will not be pursued.  Should at any point either party decide that the collaborative process is not for them, the collaborative agreement is terminated. This then requires that the clients work with different lawyers if they choose to then follow the traditional, adversarial legal approach to divorce or separation.

Entering into a collaborative agreement requires that all parties commit to working towards an outcome that best meets the needs of the family, including any children. The process may include working with financial advisers, psychologists and other professionals to ensure the needs, wishes and plans for the future of all parties to the collaborative process are explored and respected.

In a collaborative law process the lawyers work together, rather than as adversaries, to support their clients to formally end their relationship in a dignified and supportive manner.

Your collaborative practice family lawyer

In order to be considered a collaborative practitioner and become a member of Collaborative Professionals Victoria, lawyers must undergo specific collaborative law training in addition to their legal qualifications.

In addition to the expected legal qualifications and experience, collaborative lawyers require mediation and negotiation skills so that negotiated outcomes can be reached. It is essential that they be able to look to the benefits and desired outcomes of everyone within the process, not just their direct client. This requires empathy, patience and a commitment to open and transparent discussion.

Is a collaborative approach suited to me?

A collaborative law approach is open to all separating or divorcing parties although it is best suited to those who have separated amicably. Those who have an acrimonious relationship with their former partner, or have been in an abusive relationship may not feel comfort who do not feel they can safely and honestly express their views and opinions may not be suited to pursuing a collaborative resolution.

A preliminary meeting with your collaborative law practitioner will explore these issues and any others to help you determine the best legal approach.


At Umbrella Family Law we believe that separation doesn’t have to involve acrimony and court room battles – not to mention the associated bills this approach brings. We have worked with many separating couples across Melbourne and Victoria and we know that no two families are the same, just as no two separations are the same. We’ll take the time to understand you, your needs and the plans you’re making for your future.