What is Collaborative Law?
Collaborative law is a client-centered form of dispute resolution focused solely on settlement. In the collaborative divorce process, each spouse is represented by a specially trained attorney to help identify priorities and brain-storm solutions in a non-adversarial setting. When appropriate, the attorneys assemble a collaborative team of other professionals, such as financial and mental health specialists, who provide support throughout the process. Everyone involved signs a participation agreement that includes a disqualification clause wherein, if an agreement is not reached, the collaborative process terminates and both lawyers are disqualified from any further involvement in the case. This means the risk of failure is distributed to the lawyers, as well as the parties. The end result is a legally binding settlement agreement that you and your spouse have crafted based on your individual needs and those of your family.
Who is Collaborative Law for?
A collaborative approach will work for you if you want to have a mutually respectful process, despite the emotional and financial challenges associated with divorce. You have to be willing to let go of any past hurt and frustration that may have led to your current situation and plan for your future. If you want to avoid the stress of the fiercely contested battles often associated with litigation but aren’t comfortable with negotiating on your own, the collaborative approach provides you with the expertise of legal counsel by your side throughout the entire process, while still avoiding a traditional adversarial approach.
What are the benefits of Collaborative Law?
The collaborative process is far better suited than litigation to address the emotional and challenging task of ending a relationship. Because the process reduces conflict, it helps insulate your children from disputes and increases the likelihood that you can continue to co-parent your children in a way that prioritizes their best interests. You do not have judges or other third parties making important decisions about life matters. As part of the process, you and your spouse must pledge to fully and voluntarily disclose all documents and information that relate to the issues. All discussions and the exchange of information takes place in a private setting, unlike court, which is public. And because you engage in active problem-solving, it is more efficient and therefore quicker and less costly than litigation.
How is Collaborative Law Different from Mediation?
Mediation and collaborative law are both non-adversarial options for resolving disputed issues. In both mediation and collaborative law, 100% of the effort is to help you achieve settlement. However, there are important differences. In mediation, the individuals meet with a neutral third party (the mediator) to facilitate communication. Although the mediator may or may not be an attorney, she/he does not provide legal advice. Each party may choose to consult with an attorney outside the mediation, but attorneys are typically not involved in the meetings. In the collaborative process, specially trained attorneys represent the parties directly and negotiations take place in a series of meetings with the parties and their attorneys, often with the involvement of other collaboratively trained professionals.
If you and your partner are leaning toward a more respectful approach to divorce, but you are not a confident negotiator or there are complicated financial matters or difficult interpersonal dynamics, a collaborative divorce might be the right option for you.
I’ve been practicing Collaborative Law since 2009 and have helped many families resolve matters out of court. Schedule a consultation and let me help you decide which process is right for you.