What is a collaborative law divorce?
A collaborative law divorce is the practice of conflict resolution that uses a legal team process to achieve an amicable divorce. They do this by assisting the spouses in resolving their differences through guided negotiations to reach mutual decisions without going to court.
What does the collaborative law process look like?
Each spouse hires an attorney trained in collaborative law to represent him or her. They meet with their respective attorneys to go over all the issues concerning their marriage and family. These meetings are when each attorney gets to learn all about their client’s needs, wants and perspective to help them work through the divorce process.
Both spouses, along with their attorneys, then meet together to discuss each issue of the divorce one by one. Needs and concerns are openly expressed. Problem solving is approached as a team effort. Open communication is encouraged through questions, and honesty is the cornerstone of the process. Destructive and demeaning statements are specifically not allowed. All considerations are encouraged in the discussion as a means to identify hidden, underlying issues.
By going beyond the surface of a particular issue, couples often settle their problems at a deeper, more permanent level. Matters are not resolved until both parties can agree to a decision-the win/win concept. Once both parties have reached a mutual agreement on all concerns, the attorneys draw up final documents, which are then presented to a judge who signs off on the divorce and the divorce decree is granted.
The collaborative law process follows a few basic ground rules:
1. Neither party is coerced into signing off on a concern. Both parties need to be satisfied with the decision.
2. Threatening to go to court is not allowed.
3. If the collaborative process breaks off due to an impasse, both attorneys agree not to represent their clients in litigation.
4. Only one professional person from each of a variety of possible categories is used, such as a Realtor, tax accountant, child psychologist, etc. This avoids the “us vs. them” mentality.
5. All costs incurred during the deliberations are shared equally or incorporated as part of the negotiations.
What are the advantages of using the collaborative law process?
Many couples choose a collaborative law divorce process because it promotes a win/win outcome which makes it less contentious and faster and thus less expensive.
Collaborative law attorneys also give their clients more latitude of control over the proceedings than traditional divorce attorneys. It’s the couple’s lives that are being negotiated which mean they have the most at stake so their input is vital to its success. Collaborative law attorneys also try to work at a deeper level to resolve issues so that the parties are less likely to need to seek legal counsel and incur expenses in the future.
How is it different from mediation?
The main difference between mediation and collaborative law is that the process follows legal guidance. Mediators are facilitators and are not to provide legal advice where as collaborative law attorneys follow the law and offer legal counsel to their clients.
How do I know if it’s right for me?
Collaborative law is perfect for couples who want to avoid a nasty divorce. Their main concern is for the overall wellbeing of their children and they understand the consequences of a contentious divorce. Even though they don’t want to be married they also don’t want what’s left of their relationship to be destroyed by a legal process.