Collaborative Family Law
Collaborative Family Law (also known as Collaborative Divorce or Collaborative Process) is a way for you to resolve your family dispute outside of a courtroom. Whether your family dispute is a divorce, a non-marital partner dissolution, a parenting issue or a dispute between relatives, Collaborative Process gives you an opportunity to resolve your issues in an environment of open conversation and mutual respect.
Collaborative Process is also an excellent option for discussing the terms for Premarital and Post-marital Agreements, where clients expect to be together and want or need to have a common understanding about marital finances. Collaborative Process is uniquely suited to providing the guidance and support necessary to preserve a lasting relationship.
The key differences between Collaborative Process and traditional family court proceedings is that all the parties to the dispute and all of the professionals agree in writing to pursue a settlement and not to go to court. Additionally, the parties have divorce coaches and a neutral financial professional to support them through the process. In Collaborative Process, the parties and their Collaborative Professionals meet together to discuss the issues and work together towards mutually satisfactory agreements.
The members of your professional team help everyone involved to reach an agreement that is workable and reflective of the values and priorities of the participants. Compare this approach to the traditional, adversarial model, where all aspects of the case (not just the legal ones) might be handled entirely by an attorney or, perhaps, are not addressed at all. In Collaborative Process, non-legal work may be performed by the other, specialized professionals at a lower cost.
If children are involved, the Collaborative Process can help you to cultivate or continue an effective working relationship with your children’s other parent(s), that benefits your children and shields them from conflict.
Conversations and settlement discussions in Collaborative Process cannot be used as evidence in court. Participants may speak candidly without concern that a conciliatory approach will be used against them in court. If the process is not working, it can be terminated at any time by any party, and any party can seek relief from the court should it become necessary. However, to encourage the attorneys to focus on settlement rather than preparing the case for a court trial, all of the professionals who participate in your Collaborative Process are not permitted to participate in any later process which involves a third-party making a decision. The prospect of losing their Collaborative team motivates parties to stay with the process, even in the face of difficult conversations.
Most of the work in the Collaborative Process occurs in meetings that include all parties and one or more professionals, depending on what is needed. Unlike traditional adversarial court process, Collaborative Process focuses on problem solving, rather than blame or the endless airing of grievances. The requirements of full financial disclosure and open communications help to insure that all issues are discussed in a timely manner.
There is no easy answer to the question about whether Collaborative Process is right for you and your particular dispute. The effectiveness of the Collaborative Process depends in part on how willing the parties are to agree and compromise and how committed the parties are to resolving their disagreements equitably. If you feel you can listen and consider the other person’s needs and priorities, and you believe that the other participant(s) will listen and consider yours in the same way, then Collaborative Process could be a good option to settle your matter without costly and stressful litigation.