Where parties and their attorneys work together to negotiate fair settlements without Court intervention, unless Court intervention is agreed upon.
Collaborative Law is a relatively new (early 90s) approach. Its use continues to gain momentum as alternatives to traditional approaches are needed. Unlike mediation and litigation, the collaborative law process begins before legal proceedings are initiated. The attorneys, trained and certified in the collaborative process, advocate for their clients while working toward agreement. This team approach to divorce and family law cases can include financial and mental health specialists (also trained in the Collaborative Law process) to assist in reaching settlement.
How it differs from Litigation and mediation/arbitration:
1. Parties agree, by signing a Collaborative Law Participation Agreement, at the outset not to litigate the case in Court which tends to keep the parties and their attorneys focused on agreement. Within the Collaborative process, the parties can agree to use Court procedures. However, if the parties reach an impasse after the Participation Agreement is signed, the attorneys and professionals who have participated in the process must withdraw from representation. This stipulation prevents information given during the process from being used in an adversarial way.
2. By design, Collaborative Law models healthy communication and conflict resolution skills These skills can help a family transition with everyone’s dignity intact.
How It Works
Early intervention: Prior to filing any documents in court, Clients with their attorneys analyze problems, generate options, and create a context for settlement. Signing a Participation Agreement begins the process.
Four party Conferences: Parties and their attorneys meet together to identify and work through each issue. Attorneys are specifically trained to support their clients in reaching a fair agreement, while also representing their client’s best interests.
Team Approach: When appropriate, the individualized process can include the use of financial professionals, divorce coaches, and/or child specialists to increase the efficiency of the process and quality of the resulting agreement.
Court Approves Agreement: Once all the issues in the case have been resolved, a formal agreement is drafted and legal proceedings are filed with the Court. The parties then go before the Court to have a Judge approve the legal agreement document. Only generic pleadings and the final agreement are filed.
Benefits of Collaborative Law
- Clients have control of the process, not the attorneys or the Court;
- Child-centered: Future family relationships remain in focus during the entire process;
- Less costly: The communication is more efficient, so the process is less time-consuming;
- Discreet process: The collaborative process keeps your business private. Only generic pleadings are filed with the Court in order to finalize your agreement;
- Cooperative approach with custom solutions: The process promotes creative, solutions tailored to your family and emphasizes respectful communication; and
- Problem solving skills: Family members can learn useful skills for handling future conflicts.
Drawbacks of Collaborative Law
- Parties reach an impasse: If the parties reach an impasse and cannot agree on the way to involve the Court, the attorneys must withdraw and the parties continue the case with new counsel; and
- Some good faith required: The exchange of information and temporary agreements are voluntary and premised upon the good faith of each party. If one party is withholding information or chooses to ignore a prior agreement, there is no “higher authority”, such as a Family Court Judge, to force them into compliance, until the case is finalized.