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In 1990, a disillusioned lawyer, Stuart Webb decided there must be a better way for parties to resolve their disputes. Stuart was seeking a method which would put lawyers in a settlement mode and could not, under any circumstances, take the matter to Court. This removed Court as a threat to resolving disputes and meant that lawyers and the parties had to focus on resolving the issues rather than attempting to force a result.

The process has spread around the world and has become an international movement.

Legal practitioners in New Zealand began to take notice of what was happening overseas. In Spring 2009, a group of family law practitioners in Auckland met with a view to exploring whether collaborative practice would work in New Zealand. Buoyed by the success it had internationally and given New Zealand's culture, they felt Collaborative practice fitted a gap that has been missing - giving the ability for New Zealander's to take control of their separation. With New Zealand's family law legislation being in some cases world leading, it was time for New Zealand to catch up with the world with its approach to alternative dispute resolution.

Since 2009 the number of legal practitioners involved grew and word spread among other professionals. Accountants, psychologists, child experts and counsellors have become involved and undertaken training. Training was originally provided by the University of Technology Sydney but there are now experienced trainers in New Zealand and regular courses are provided for those interested in being involved in this process.

Why become a Collaborative Professional?

Changes occurring in the Family Court and a cultural shift whereby families are seeking greater control of their dispute resolution processes and lives, mean there are opportunities for who are able to assist their clients to resolve issues using the Collaborative Process.

Collaborative professionals:

  • are able to offer their clients a full service with a comprehensive range of dispute resolution options.
  • get to work together within multidisciplinary teams, supporting and learning from one another, with each contributing his or her specialised skillset to assist the parties.
  • learn skills that enhance their existing skillset.
  • generally report a greater satisfaction working with Collaborative Practice and that it allows them to work in a way that is more consistent with their own values.
  • become part of a supportive network of other professionals.
Practitioners interested in adding Collaborative Practice to their existing practice must complete the training from a recognised Collaborative course provider. This is integral to the process and to ensure consistency amongst the practise. Once practitioners are trained in Collaborative Practice, they can call themselves a Collaborative Professional.

If you are one of the following, your practice may be extended to include Collaborative Practice.

  • Lawyers
  • Psychologists
  • Accountants
  • Mediators
  • Counsellors

Collaborative Advocacy New Zealand oversees training of all professionals and supports Collaborative Practice as a conflict resolution option by:

  • Leading and integrating the Collaborative community;
  • Establishing and upholding the essential elements and ethical and practice standards of the Collaborative Practice Process;
  • Fostering professional excellence by educating and providing resources to Collaborative practitioners and professionals; and
  • Promoting the growth and use of Collaborative Practice.

Becoming a member of CANZ provides you with recognition that you are a trained approved provider within the Collaborative Practice, provides you with links to local and national members and events, provides you with a listing on the website on a central database for anyone who wishes to search and resources for you to continue your training and increasing your skills and knowledge of Collaborative Practice.

Former Chief Family Court Judge Boshier said of collaborative practice:

"Collaborative Family Law Practice is an important tool in the resolution of family disputes. That it has grown in use, in other common law countries, is indicative of the important place it occupies. We must constantly strive for efficient and economic dispute resolution methods, and I recommend the collaborative model as insightful and helpful. I hope it receives the interest here that it has elsewhere"

Professor Mark Henaghan Dean of the Law Faculty, University of Otago, endorses the training. He says:

"Lawyers must always be open to new ways of seeing things. The focus of collaborative practice is entirely on lawyers, together with other collaborative practitioners such as accountants and mental health professionals, working together to solve their client's problems. Family lawyers are generally good at this and the techniques of collaborative practice will enhance their ability to resolve their client's problems in a way that leaves everyone with their dignity intact."

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