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3 Best Collaborative Divorce Lawyers in Toronto

toronto's top rated collaborative divorce lawyers
Written by Russell Alexander / (905) 655-6335

Toronto’s Top Rated – Collaborative Divorce Lawyers

What is collaborative divorce?  Basically the parties and their lawyers agree not to go to court and to resolve the separation following collaborative practices principles, including: being fair and honest, not taking advantages of mistakes and crafting creative resolutions by focusing on the clients’ goals and interest.

As I indicated in our Toronto’s Top Rated Divorce Lawyers blog, having practiced divorce law in Toronto for over 20 years, I often get asked for referrals when I have a conflict, or my schedule does not permit me to take on new matters. Usually, I try to match up the referral with the needs and personality of the particular client or professional asking.

Choosing a collaborative lawyer can be a daunting experience. Go with your gut, ask questions and ask other professionals or former clients for recommendations. The key is to have confidence in your collaborative lawyer together with open and regular communication. You want a lawyer who will listen to your story with compassion and empathy. 

There are many great collaborative divorce lawyers in Toronto. This list simply represents some of best of the best in my perspective having worked with these lawyers on common cases or resolving family separations using collaborative divorce. I’m of course excluding my own firm in making this list; however, these are the lawyers that I feel are the ‘top guns’ if you are seeking a Toronto collaborative lawyer.

1. Brian Galbraith

Brian has done more to promote collaborative practice (CP) in Ontario than any other lawyer that I know. Brian and I have trained dozens of lawyers in the Introductory Interdisciplinary Collaborative Training. Like our firm, Brian has a large contingent of fully trained CP professionals in his firm. Brian has spoken at local CP practice groups and has a very successful practice. In addition to being a role model for many Ontario Lawyers, Brian is passionate about promoting CP internationally as well. He has been a board member of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP) and now serves as President of the IACP.

If you are seeking a CP lawyer in Toronto, Brian is an easy pick.

brian galbraith

Biography: Brian Galbraith has been practicing family law for more than 32 years. He owns Galbraith Family Law which has 16 lawyers practicing family law with offices in Barrie, Newmarket and Toronto. Brian was instrumental in bringing Collaborative Practice to Ontario and Simcoe County and was awarded the Founder’s Medallion for his efforts to establish Collaborative Practice in Ontario. He was the first president of Collaborative Practice Simcoe County and is again serving as its president. Brian is also the incoming President of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals and an international leader in the Collaborative movement. For a number of years, Brian has taught Collaborative Team Practice to lawyers and other professionals. Including having taught workshops across Ontario and presenting for the Law Society of Ontario at the Family Law Summit.

Phone: (705) 302-0394

2. Ellen Nightingale

Ellen is one of Toronto’s leading CP leaders and is our number two pick.  Ellen’s experience, compassion and empathy make her a great collaborative practice leader.  She is actively involved in the Ontario Association of Collaborative Professionals (OACP) and serves as a board member.  During the pandemic Ellen showed leadership in arranging online webinars to teach and help other CP professionals to learn to how to pivot to digital and offer remote CP services virtually.

ellen nightingale

Biography: Ellen Nightingale is the Principle of Ellen Nightingale Family Law and has been practicing law in Ontario for 40 years. Collaborative Practice is at the core of Ellen’s work, she is a Collaborative Lawyer and a Past Chair of Collaborative Divorce Toronto as well as a Member of the Board of Directors of the Ontario Association of Collaborative Professionals (OACP). Ellen has recently earned the OACP designation of Advanced Collaborative Practitioner, and she is one of only a handful of collaborative professionals in Ontario (there are more than 600 professionals) to have earned the ACP to date. Ellen received a Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Windsor and a Bachelor of Arts degree from York University. She is a member of the Law Society of Ontario, and is also an active volunteer in the community.

Phone: (416) 920-9393

3. Natalie Derbyshire

Natalie and I have worked together for many years and she has shown great leadership in promoting CP and collaborative divorce. Natalie organizes regular CP study groups for Toronto lawyers, is an active member of numerous CP practice groups, including the YCP, CDT, and OACP.  She presently serves as a Director on the YCP Board and previously served as a Director on the FDRIO Board. Natalie is passionate about her clients and will go the extra mile (or kilometre) to make sure they are well looked after.

natalie derbyshire

Biography: Natalie Derbyshire is a Partner at Stanchieri Family Law in Toronto and has been practicing family law since 2006, when she was called to the Bar of Ontario. She is a certified collaborative practitioner and aims to save clients money, primarily recommending dispute resolution processes, such as collaboration, mediation and negotiation, as alternatives to court, whenever prudent. Natalie’s passion is to help others and her goal is to exceed client expectations by imparting insight as to how present actions can have lasting effects and simplify future day-to-day living.

Natalie graduated Law School and attended convocation in 2005 where she took an oath, along with my classmates, to zealously advocate for her clients. Natalie takes that oath and her job seriously and she loves what she does. She expressed that it is her privilege to assist clients at a vulnerable time in their lives. Life as they know it may never be the same, but Natalie strives to help her clients take one step at a time and move forward fearlessly, understanding that every ending is a new beginning and how the next chapter is written is up to them.

Phone: (416) 595-9995

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About the author

Russell Alexander

Russell Alexander is the Founder & Senior Partner of Russell Alexander Collaborative Family Lawyers.