A Canadian couple have made headlines in Canada after posting a selfie on Facebook taken outside a Court House where they had just filed for divorce.
“Here’s Chris Neuman and I yesterday after filing for divorce! But we’re smiling?! Yep, we’re kooky like that. Are we smiling because the partner we chose for forever turned out not to be the forever partner we needed? Of course not. We’re smiling because we have done something extraordinary (we think anyway!) We have respectfully, thoughtfully and honourably ended our marriage in a way that will allow us to go forward as parenting partners for our children, the perfect reason that this always WAS meant to be, so they will never have to choose. They’ll never have to wonder which side of the auditorium to run to after their Christmas Concert or spring play, because we’ll be sitting together. They won’t have to struggle with their own wedding planning because we’ll be sitting on the same side of the aisle – THEIR side.
And now that you know it’s possible – please consider our way if you find yourself on this road, or share out message if we can help remind them that it’s possible to love your kids more than you hate/distrust/dislike your ex (which we have felt at times on the journey but for the record we do actually like each other). Nice work #teamneuman #divorceselfie”
Shannon and Chris Neuman’s selfie has been shared on Facebook at least 27,000 times.
The Neumans have likely participated in a Collaborative Practice process. Since 1990, Collaborative Practice has helped couples do exactly what the Neumans have done, finalise their relationship and make arrangements for the co-parenting of their children in a non-adversarial way.
Collaborative Practice uses a different model to the adversarial system. Parties use different professionals including solicitors, accountants, child psychologists, and communication experts to try and resolve their dispute. Parties sign a Collaboration agreement which aims for them to work together on resolving their dispute, be it parenting or property settlement. One factor that assists in keeping matters going to a successful conclusion is that different practitioners assist in resolving the issues. If there is an issue about communication, the communication professional works with everyone to resolve this. The parties enter the agreement knowing that if they head to Court, their solicitors are not able to act for them as this is prohibited under the collaboration agreement.
The concept of Collaborative Practice started in North America and has worked particularly well in Canada. Ten years ago, Stu Webb (the father of Collaborative Practice) trained the first cohort of Australian Lawyers. Since that time, many practitioners across Australia have been trained in Collaborative Practice.
In Queensland, Queensland Collaborative Law was established in 2005 to promote Collaborative Practice. There are collaborative practice groups in various different centres across Queensland including Brisbane, Toowoomba, Rockhampton and Cairns.
In Toowoomba, we have a number of practitioners trained in Collaborative Practice. Through The Advocacy and Support Centre, we are currently trialling a pilot program to assist low-income families use Collaborative Practice to resolve their disputes. We are supported in our work by the Toowoomba and South West Queensland Family Pathways Network.
Collaborative Practice might not be for everyone, but as the Neuman’s can attest to, it beats being involved in the 2 year rollercoaster ride that you might end up with if you go to court.
My friend, Emma Williams of Emma Williams Family Law in Carmarthenshire, Wales uses this Bob Willoughby photograph of Frank Sinatra to promote her practice.
Divorce your loved one with dignity. Your children will thank you for it in the end.
Andrew McCormack is an Accredited Family Law Specialist and is trained in Collaborative Practice. He is an Associate with the Toowoomba and Brisbane Family Law Firm Best Wilson Buckley Family Law.