Janis Pritchard was interviewed for an article about Collaborative Divorce and Mediation by Mike Fisher. The article was just published by Apple Magazine. You can click here to read the article in Apple Magazine, or read the article below.
By Mike Fisher
When a couple breaks up, it sends shockwaves through a family. Depending on the seismic force of this breakup, anger, sadness, confusion and conflict reverberate through the family.
These feelings can tear apart family relationships in the same way an earthquake tears apart buildings, bridges and other structures. When the breakup earthquake goes on and on, it can generate toxic stress. Toxic stress is never good, but it’s especially harmful to children because it can block or weaken brain development.
“The shockwaves of the breakup earthquake can start early with children very aware of the underlying conflicts,” says Janis Pritchard, a collaborative practice lawyer and mediator with Pritchard & Co. Law Firm in Medicine Hat.
But families can avoid the damage of the breakup earthquake with legal options different from traditional divorce and separation methods.
One is collaborative practice, a relatively new way that divorcing or separating couples can resolve disputes respectfully and equitably – and without going to court.
Collaborative practice helps couples focus on their most important goals, especially their children, as they end their marriage, be it legal or common law. It also keeps spouses in control of the process – not lawyers or judges.
Collaborative divorce and mediation are problem-solving rather than adversarial procedures. They are ways for parents to avoid or lessen the shockwaves of a breakup for themselves and their children, Pritchard says. “Engaging the right professionals and organizations can help to calm the shock.”
In comparison, the traditional divorce system is adversarial, pitting parents against each other and often increasing and prolonging the conflict. A couple’s breakup does not have to lead to a nasty divorce battle in court, although many Albertans are unaware of the more peaceful options for divorce and separation, says Beryl McNeill, a registered collaborative practice lawyer and mediator with McNeill Family Law in Calgary. She is also past president of the Canadian Bar Association, Family Section (Alberta-South).
Collaborative practice is based on giving families ways to work together and communicate. Lawyers, family counsellors, and financial specialists help and advise a divorcing couple and their family.
Pritchard and McNeill are part of a team of lawyers and family counsellors working to help Albertans understand their legal options to divorce. Almost half of marriages in Alberta will end before a couple’s 30th anniversary.
“The more people hear about this model of practice, the more they choose it and the more other lawyers come on board to be trained,” McNeill says.