Separation Process


When parties separate it is not always necessary to go to court. A negotiated settlement is far more preferable than the emotional and financial costs of proceeding to court. Most separated couples negotiate a separation agreement which is a domestic contract under the Family Law Act that can deal with all issues related to the breakdown of a relationship including custody, access, parenting, child and spousal support, and property division. The process of how you obtain that agreement is one you must decide and which one is right for you in your particular circumstances.


The Traditional Approach to negotiating a separation agreement means both parties are represented by lawyers. The parties and their lawyers attempt to work cooperatively towards a resolution. Parties will exchange financial disclosure and then attempt to negotiate and sign a full agreement, oftentimes utilizing four way meetings.

This process works very well for parties who consider they can negotiate mutually satisfactory terms of a separation agreement with the assistance and expertise of lawyers, ensuring that all legal issues are carefully and thoroughly addressed. If negotiation is unsuccessful, either party may commence a court action. This may be necessary if after preliminary negotiations you doubt that a settlement may be reached.


Collaborative law is a legal process enabling couples who have decided to separate or end their marriage to work with their lawyers and, on occasion, other family professionals in order to engage a cost effective team and to avoid the uncertain outcome of court and to achieve a settlement that best meets the specific needs of both parties and their children without the underlying threat of litigation.

This process allows parties to have a fair settlement. The separating couple signs a participation agreement binding each other to the process and disqualifying their respective lawyer’s right to represent either one in any future family-related litigation.

The collaborative process can be used by couples experiencing low, medium or high conflict or trust issues, to facilitate a broad range of family issues. When an agreement is reached the lawyers prepare a draft agreement for review and editing by parties.

Collaborative Practice is by definition a non-adversarial approach. Your lawyers pledge in writing not to go to court. They negotiate in good faith, and work together with you to achieve mutual settlement outside the courts.


Mediation involves a Mediator negotiating with the parties in order to help them reach a mutually satisfactory agreement. This process can occur with or without counsel. Once progress notes and/or a draft separation agreement is prepared, it is reviewed by the parties and then sent to each party’s counsel for independent legal advice and signature by the parties.

This can be a very cost effective option as the parties share the costs of mediation and only pay their individual lawyers for advice given throughout the process, rather than paying two lawyers to negotiate and draft the agreement.


You and your spouse each retain lawyers and voluminous court documentation is prepared, exchanged and filed at court. Oftentimes most of the documentation filed at court for each litigant is excessive and unrestrained, which often means prohibitive costs and fees extending over a period of 1 to 3 or more years. It is the most costly process and is adversarial in that it becomes a gladiatorial match between spouses and their children.


At Susan T. Dixon Family Law office, we have experienced professionals who are focused on helping you achieve a fair and peaceful resolution as quickly as possible while keeping financial and emotional costs to a minimum.

Susan can represent you in any process you choose to help you achieve your goals.

Be assured that we always ‘walk in your shoes’ and never provide advice or a legal process that we would not consider taking under the same circumstances.