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The collaborative law process unfolds in the following six stages:
1. Initial consultation between the lawyer and the client

The lawyer collects information about the client’s situation and problems. The lawyer then presents to the client various options for dealing with his situation such as: collaborative law, mediation and litigation. If the client chooses collaborative law, he can suggest this approach to the other party or the lawyer can send this person a letter, asking him to consider the collaborative process.

2. The first contact with the other party

Once both parties have agreed to use the collaborative process and have chosen their respective collaborative lawyer, the lawyers communicate to determine whether there are urgent matters to deal with and to identify each client’s concerns which will be on the agenda for discussion and negotiation during the first settlement meeting.

3. Client preparation

The collaborative lawyer meets his client in order to gain an understanding of the facts and the conflict in order to determine what is important to his client. The lawyer explains to his client what are his rights and obligations. He also explains to him how settlement meetings unfold and what is the role of each of the participants: the lawyers and the parties. He will also discuss communication strategies that are useful in promoting positive and constructive negotiations based on the interests of each party.

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4. First settlement meeting

Once introductions have been made, the Participation Agreement is read. The lawyers answer any questions the parties may have with regard to the Agreement. Once everyone is in agreement with the terms and has committed to respecting them, the Participation Agreement is signed by all the participants (lawyers and parties).

Then, the problems to resolve are listed and priority is given to those which are considered most urgent. Negotiations begin.

This meeting concludes once it is determined what information and documents are to be exchanged in preparation of the next meeting.

A schedule of settlement meetings is established.

After the meeting, each lawyer talks with his client about his thoughts on the meeting (debriefing) and the lawyers discuss the meeting and the next steps.

A summary of each meeting is prepared by one of the lawyers and is submitted to the other lawyer and the parties for approval.

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5. Subsequent settlement meetings

Negotiation of all issues continue from one meeting to the next. Everyone works cooperatively in the search for solutions that can form the basis of an agreement.

6. The settlement and end of the process

The lawyers draft an agreement, using clear language. The process usually ends at a meeting during which the document is reviewed and signed by all. The parties can then have this agreement confirmed by the Court, if they so wish, by producing the appropriate application to Court.

Collaborative law is a process which allows parties to continue to talk to each other and negotiate directly with each other, in the presence of their lawyers. They can benefit from the advice of their lawyers during the process. This process helps and encourages continued communication between the parties in their search for solutions. Negotiations are based on the needs of family members going through a separation; parents have an opportunity to express their needs and desires as well as those of their children.
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