Terms in Collaborative Practise

Collaborative lawyers will go out of their way to use language in a user friendly way but more than that collaborative lawyers understand the importance of words to determine the way people look at themselves and issues. Therefore they do not use the language of opposition to describe the collaborative process and they tend to avoid words which suggest failure or breakdown on the part of the couple. Below are a number of terms used in Collaborative Practise.


Participation Agreement is the fundamental contract in a collaborative case which all parties sign. It sets out the rules of collaboration. Most importantly it contains a provision that should the process fail and the parties decide to go to court, then the lawyers must relinquish the case and other lawyers must be sought by the parties. This is called the ‘buy in’ and ensures that the lawyers will do everything within their power to try and make the collaborative case succeed.

Six-Way Meetings, Four-Way Meetings and Two-Way Meetings

This describes the various kinds of meetings that take place within the collaborative process in the attempt to reach resolutions on all family issues. Collaborative lawyers do not engage in correspondence to any great degree and all business within the process is conducted by way of face to face meetings where at all possible and these are described in the manner above so as to distinguish them for the practitioners. Minutes are kept of all meetings within the process. Sometimes because the two collaborative lawyers working on a case do not reside in the same town, a certain amount of correspondence may be unavoidable but this should never be about issues in the case and should be confined to arrangements for meetings and such like matters.

Collaborative Coaches

Collaborative Coaches are unique to Collaborative Practise. The coaches come from a therapeutic background. They must be collaboratively trained in the same way as the lawyers to work in the process. They work in the process to manage the emotions of the parties who are collaborating and also as communication specialists i.e. they assist the parties with their communication both within the process and hopefully into the future making co-parenting a real possibility post separation.

Their involvement with the parties is only within the process and they do not work with you outside the process. The coach is not a neutral ; they are aligned to a particular client as are the lawyers.

Child Specialist

This is a term used to describe the child expert involved in the collaborative process. The child specialist’s job is to bring the voice of the child into the process and this is unique to collaborative law. The Child Specialist must be collaboratively trained. The child’s voice is brought into the process in a non-judgemental resolution orientated way. The parties are enabled to hear their children by the assistance of the coaches who are with them when the child specialist meets with them. The child specialist is a neutral in the process which means that they are not aligned to any particular client. Their responsibility is to the children and the process.

Financial Specialist

The Financial Specialist is generally an accountant with an interest in working in family law. The Financial Specialist must be collaboratively trained in common with the other specialists in the process. The job of the Financial Specialist is limited to the process and he or she does not act for the parties outside of the process. Their role within the process is somewhat more extensive than the role generally assigned to an accountant in adversarial family law proceedings. The Financial Specialist is a neutral and his or her responsibility is to the family and the process.