Cooperative Practice
Creative Solutions for Legal Problems

The approach of cooperative practice is: “negotiation first – litigate if necessary”. It is an option to collaborative law and is different from mediation as there are lawyers assisting and advocating for their clients without maintaining professional neutrality. Cooperative practice is different from collaborative law because all process options, including contested court intervention, remain open. While it does not exclude the possibility of creative resolutions which would arise outside of the standards of case law and statute, cooperative practice is more connected to the law model. Cooperative negotiations in theory are less adversarial but at the same time the fundamental backdrop may constitute the “take it or we’ll litigate” type of pre-litigation positioning.

Although cooperative practice is a relatively recent professional process option, it is based on the traditional scope of a family solicitor’s practice which corresponds to the relatively less common occurrence of contested family law procedures and litigation. Fundamentally as a process and negotiation style, cooperative practice by nature is court-connected but by degree it is less adversarial than the classic litigation-first method. Procedurally, cooperative practice may be the best option for lawyer assisted negotiations when a contraindication is present with respect to collaborative law (i.e. client’s decision to maintain all possible options based on presenting complication or the other lawyer does not possess the necessary advanced skill and process training to currently qualify as an accredited CFL lawyer). As well the cooperative approach may become the next best settlement option when one of the parties or CFL lawyers assesses their own or client’s response to a CFL invitation as problematic.

Clients would begin with an appropriately worded and framed written acknowledgment that our firm has been retained as an individual’s independent counsel for the purpose of negotiating and concluding a comprehensive Domestic Contract (usually a written Separation Agreement). This forthright declaration would be accompanied by a proposed framework to the divorce or separation which could include descriptive proposals relating to the parenting plan, financial arrangements in child and spousal support, possession of the matrimonial home, property settlement and processing costs. We would then work with your spouse and his/her lawyer to construct an enforceable legal settlement. This model readily integrates the four-party (i.e. both spouses and lawyers) settlement conferences. Any court involvement (e.g. Divorce or Consent Order) could be organized based on mutual agreement.