A typical agreement contains these provisions:
- It must be signed totally voluntarily and dated. It is signed by the clients and the professionals retained to help them including lawyers, family and financial professionals.
- The principles of the Collaborative Process are set out. The clients agree to focus on each issue, explore their common interests, generate a wide range of options and work to the best possible solutions.
- The helping professionals are to ensure clients are informed of their legal, financial and other rights and obligations. They help define issues, set priorities, obtain and organize information.
- The team sets the agenda, schedule and tasks. Homework between meetings, which often means obtaining documents and information, is agreed upon.
- Collaborative Practitioners listen, then help clients communicate effectively. They intervene as needed to guide negotiations.
- Clients are encouraged to state their own needs and interests and to understand those of the other client.
- Collaborative Practitioners are responsible to represent their own client diligently, not the other client.
- Rules to govern behaviour during negotiations are set out. They usually include:
a. no changes regarding children’s circumstances except by prior agreement;
b. not belittling or criticizing the other parent to or in front of the children;
c. not use the children as messengers to the other parent;
d. not discuss separation issues in front of the children;
e. engage in respectful communication whether oral or written;
f. not take advantage of mistakes or calculation errors by the other client;
g. support and encourage free, open respectful discussion without criticism;
h. not threaten to withdraw from the process as a means to force settlement.
- Independent experts can be retained as neutral advisors to work with all parties and prepare reports. These reports include valuations, tax calculations, parenting plans, and therapy recommendations. They are all confidential to the process and yet fully disclosed to the team.
- It is understood there are no guarantees of success.
- All legal rights are waived during the process such as questioning under oath, court applications, and restraining orders.
- Written notice is given if a client or professional wishes to withdraw from the process. A waiting period of 30 days to allow clients to reorganize and retain other lawyers or professionals in an orderly transition, is agreed upon.
- A Collaborative Professional must resign or withdraw upon learning that their own client has hidden information or lies and continues to do so. If the client undermines the process through taking an unfair advantage that client’s lawyer presents a written notice of withdrawal. This ends this Collaborative process.
- All documents and information and settlement offers disclosed are confidential and given on a "without prejudice" basis.
If a lawsuit follows the information cannot be used unless the other side consents or a court order permits its use.
In accordance with the terms in the agreement, Collaborative Professionals cannot be forced to testify in court.
- During Collaborative negotiations clients agree not to dispose of assets or incur debt or change insurance beneficiaries or change title to assets.
- The children’s ordinary residence is not to be changed unless there is written consent.
- A temporary legally enforceable agreement can be negotiated and signed to deal with specific areas, such as financial support or children’s special needs during the process.
- Final agreements can be made into a court order unless the client’s agree otherwise.