Collaborative Law

 Divorced Families Co parentingCollaborative law is an alternative legal process for couples that have decided to end their marriage through separation or divorce. The divorcing couple commits to working with their lawyers and any other professionals that might be needed (divorce coaches, financial specialists, child specialists, etc.) in order to avoid their case going to court. The goal is reaching a settlement that meets the needs of the parties. The collaborative process enables the parties to end their marriage while reducing delays, expenses and the stresses of litigation. It is essentially a problem-solving effort that is founded on three simple principles:

  • the parties pledge not to litigate their disputes in court
  • they pledge to honestly and voluntarily exchange information in a prompt and good-faith manner
  • the attorneys resolve to arrive at solutions that take into account the couples’ highest priorities and those of their children

In order for the process to begin, attorneys must be selected, and in most cases, they should be trained in the collaborative process. It is customary for the attorneys and the couple to sit together face-to-face to better identify and address issues in dispute. The focus is on problem-solving and planning for the future rather than exchanging accusations and assigning blame. The process requires that the attorneys and their clients agree that should the negotiations fail to resolve issues and the couple subsequently decides to go to court instead, that they must do so without their collaborative law attorneys. Furthermore, the attorneys are required to withdraw from the case if they believe their client is participating in bad faith or is less than completely honest.

A common thread found in the decision to use this type of divorce process by the parties generally includes:

  • the desire for a respectful and creative way to end their marriage
  • the need to maintain control over the decisions that affect them during and following their divorce
  • an abiding desire to protect the children of the marriage from the fallout of a contentious divorce process
  • a sense of personal responsibility to manage the difficult experience with integrity

Other features of Collaborative Law:

  • tends to shorten the process from start to finish (compared to litigation), as all negotiations are done in the open, without casting blame or airing grievances
  • children are isolated from parental disputes and aren’t forced into a custody evaluation process
  • the parties use professionals jointly. They will include accountants, property appraisers, mental health experts, and the like
  • the mutually respectful effort rather than contention that facilitates tactical negotiations and threats of litigation
  • the attorneys stay involved in the process to settlement or withdraw from any further participation. The alternative (litigated divorce) keeps the attorneys involved through settlement or trialchild custody strategies
  • the legal costs are shared equally (the attorneys are paid the same amount) rather than one party having more resources to unfairly disadvantage the other party
  • each attorney fully represents his or her client in zealous advocacy toward a mutually agreeable resolution of all issues, as opposed to winning
  • if an impasse occurs, the attorneys can call in mediators and other professionals, who work for both parties, to resolve the impasse
  • if one or both parties wishes to withdraw from the process or go to court, both attorneys must withdraw from the case. This protects the confidentiality of the meetings
  • negotiation and resolution tends to mitigate the customary resentment and conflict found in most divorces. Couples ultimately feel better about themselves and their former spouse at its conclusion and tend to get through the divorce process with their dignity and moral standards intact.
  • full disclosure of all details by the parties avoids the battles that occur in litigated divorces. The couple signs a binding agreement at the outset to disclose all assets and income, knowing that deception can trigger the attorneys withdrawal from the case
  • all (or nearly all) activity occurs during the the collaborative divorce meetings, rather than the customary mountain of siloed effort by each side outside the process

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