You and your married spouse or common-law partner are separating. And you both want a separation agreement that resolves all issues between the two of you. Legally. With the best likelihood of finality. Which means: you want a separation agreement that resolves everything to do with your kids: parenting arrangements and where they’ll live. And everything to do with support. And everything to do with property.
But: what you don’t want is uncertainty about what this will cost you. You don’t want uncertainty about what the process involves. And you don’t want uncertainty about how long it will take.
Above all: you don’t want to be in court or at war with each other forever. Because you know that divorce isn’t what damages kids: study after study indicates, children suffer most from ongoing animosity between their parents. You love your kids. And both of you want the best outcome possible for your children.
We get it. At Collaborative Practice Simcoe County (CPSC) a group of very hard-working people have been developing a cutting-edge new process. So far as we know, there is no other collaborative practice group trying just this approach: but there’s been considerable interest from other collaborative practice groups both here in Canada and internationally. At CPSC we want to deliver what you want: so we’ve designed streamlined flat fee collaborative family practice to do just that. In five stages:
- Stage 1: Retain Professionals and Sign Collaborative Participation Agreement
- Stage 2: First Joint Meeting & Information Gathering and Exchange (set target date to complete)
- Stage 3: Preparing to Settle: Working with Family, Financial and Legal Professionals (set target date to complete)
- Stage 4: Last Joint Meeting: Resolve All Issues (set target date to complete)
- Stage 5: Settling the Terms and Sign Separation Agreement With Your Lawyers (set target date to complete)
What does it cost? Flat fee $15,000 + HST. That’s $7,500 + HST for each of you – and represents CPSC’s initial value pricing as we work through these experimental new protocols. (It may be that this streamlined flat fee will require adjustment in future: and your collaborative participation agreement would of course reflect any such adjustment in place at the time you sign.)
What do you get for your $15,000? Take into consideration: that $15,000 number represents about 15 hours each of standard midrange lawyer fees . . . . if you went the standard negotiation or court route, lawyers only. And take into consideration the value of the assets and the stream of income to be allocated between you. Not to mention the even greater value to you of emotional resolution for yourselves and for your children.
Streamlined flat fee collaborative is a team approach. We know that separating families deal with intertwined and interconnected emotional, financial and legal issues. Lawyer do legal. This process is intended to address all the issues, the emotional and the financial together with the legal, using a collaborative strategy of working together with you, to enhance cost-efficiency within a defined time-line.
So this is what we offer.
You will have about 25 hours of time with a jointly-retained neutral family professional to help with the parenting plan for the children and managing your own emotional hot buttons. But keep in mind, this is not “therapy” or “counseling”: it’s task-focused on getting to resolution.
You will have about 22 hours of time to work with a jointly-retained neutral financial professional to address all of the financial disclosure issues and determine income for support purposes and equalization of net family property.
And you will have about 14 hours each with your own individual lawyer for independent legal advice: to explain what the law stipulates or requires and how similar matters have been resolved in litigated court cases. For people who can’t come to their own agreements and need a judge.
You will get a Client Binder that helps walk you through the process and keep track of your progress. This is your separation so we rely upon you and we actually require you to do a lot of the work. If we are going to get the agreement done within the limits of just two joint meetings you will want to complete your “homework” on time. And that’s OK: because getting your homework done promptly reflects your own deep commitment to reaching a settlement in accordance with your goals and interests. (Don’t worry: your former spouse will have a Client Binder and homework assignments too).
Is Streamlined Flat Fee Collaborative Practice for everyone? No. CPSC makes this process available only to persons who complete an initial SDRI questionnaire (Separation and Divorce Readiness Instrument https://www.sdri.ca/ ). That SDRI is not included within the flat fee: it’s a further expense of $150.00 for both of you and was developed by one of our CPSC family specialists. But CPSC has also made arrangements for some discounted SDRI fees for initial clients who would like to try this process, while we are fine-tuning our new protocols.
Why do we screen with the SDRI? Streamlined Flat Fee is intended only for separating couples who are sincerely committed to an amicable resolution, with “low complexity” scores on the SDRI. Typically, the optimal candidates will have middle income levels, so low complexity also on the financial issues. We want to provide access to collaborative process for more separating families.
And that’s because we believe collaborative is the optimal method of resolving family separations. Collaborative engages the separating couple in creating solutions that work for you: right now and going forward as your kids continue to grow and change. We want to help you succeed in the best interests of your children and we’re invested in your success. CPSC collaboratively-trained family, financial and legal professionals have developed this new protocol and are offering discounted fees if the SDRI prescreening indicates there’s a good chance it will work for you.
As you would expect, that Streamlined Flat Fee cannot and does not cover every possible additional “disbursement” that may be required for your particular circumstances. In addition to the SDRI fee, if one of you is self employed and a chartered business valuator is needed to help determine the value of the business and income for support purposes, that’s an additional disbursement. If one of you has a pension that must be valued, that’s an additional disbursement. If one of you wants to buy out the family home and a residential appraisal is required, that’s an additional disbursement. If the family specialist identifies the need for therapeutic counseling for you or your kids, that’s not part of the “parenting plan” work and is not included within the flat fee.
What happens if resolution within the two scheduled joint meetings is not reached and “time’s up”? You need to be clear: the Streamlined Flat Fee process is over. We cannot be the guarantors of the success of the process because much of it is up you. We are done. And: your individual collaborative lawyers will not be able to represent you in a court case. Your neutral financial and family specialists won’t testify in a court case. These would be your sunk costs. But of course, you chose collaborative because you didn’t want to go to court in the first place. We want to keep you out of court too.
If we see that matters aren’t going to resolve, then we will spend the last amount of time available to explore options with you. Maybe there are only a few issues that weren’t settled. Maybe one or more of the professionals on your team can offer additional time at additional fees if you believe that this further investment is likely to be productive. Maybe we can recommend additional services that we think might help: such as mediation and/or arbitration. So we can still get it done.
But: we designed this process to allocate the mutual responsibility across all team members. To strengthen and enhance your own motivation to be reasonable, to compromise and to fashion a resolution that truly speaks to your own situation: your own values and your own goals for your family.
At Anderson Adams, Ellen Anderson is a long-standing and active member of the Collaborative Practice Simcoe County Board. She has been trained in collaborative process since 2002 and since then has regularly updated her training: including training in the new Streamlined Flat Fee Collaborative Practice.
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