People who have chosen to obtain a divorce through Collaborative Law have described its benefits in these ways:
You helped me work collaboratively...in a reasonable way so that my spouse and I could remain friendly through the process and still come out better off than I was afraid I would be.
The divorce was not easy but this process has left me and my ex-husband able to collaborate and even remain very friendly.
I can’t thank you enough for all you did for me and how you always kept my wife’s best interest in mind. I believe that this divorce was done in the kindest possible way.
How does Collaborative Law differ from a conventional divorce?
A conventional divorce is usually one that is litigated through the court system. Collaborative Law divorce is very different. Some important differences include:
- Your Collaborative attorney is committed to helping you reach an out-of-court settlement. In a Collaborative case, your Collaborative Law attorney agrees not to represent you in an adversarial court action.
- In a conventional divorce, the attorney often starts with a court filing. Sometimes the attorney starts with a position letter, which if not accepted, then leads to a court filing.
- Collaborative professionals are trained to help you move through difficult decision-making situations. In Collaborative Law, if you get “stuck,” the Collaborative professionals work together to help you and your spouse expand your settlement options. This helps you keep control over the decisions of the case, rather than asking the judge to make important decisions for you and your family.
- Attorneys representing clients in a conventional divorce process bring disputes to the judge for resolution. By contrast, all major negotiations in Collaborative Law take place during carefully planned meetings in which the clients, attorneys, and coach/facilitator actively participate.
- In a conventional divorce process, the attorneys often negotiate with one another without the clients present. After the attorney negotiations, the attorneys provide a summary of the discussion to their clients.
- In a Collaborative case, all of the discussions are private. The meetings are in a private law office and a limited number of documents are filed with the court only when both clients agree.
- In a conventionial divorce process, either client can file a complaint, counter-claim, affidavit, motion, opposition and memorandum stating allegations and positions. All of these are publicly accessible records.
How does Collaborative Law differ from mediation?
A mediator is a neutral who helps guide clients to an agreement but does not represent either party or make decisions for them. The parties often consult with attorneys outside the mediation sessions. In Collaborative Law, each party is represented by an attorney who is present at all negotiation meetings.
What are the advantages of Collaborative Law?
Major advantages include:
- Collaborative Law creates an atmosphere for you and your spouse to cooperate.
- By removing the threat of litigation, you, your spouse and the Collaborative attorneys remain focused on solving problems. Solutions arrived at will meet, as best as possible, your needs and the needs of your restructured family.
- The coach/facilitator is uniquely trained to intervene in the management of feelings that might otherwise derail, prolong, or prevent settlement.
- Jointly retained experts (e.g., a financial specialist or business appraiser) work for both of you. The joint experts thereby avoid any “battle of the experts.”
What are some challenges in Collaborative Law?
Challenges, such as those listed below, do not necessarily prevent you and your spouse from engaging in Collaborative Law, but they do require the Collaborative professionals to be especially skillful in working with you and your spouse.
Some of the difficulties that may arise in a Collaborative case include:
- When the parties have different views of the pace at which the Collaborative case should proceed.
- When one party cannot make a decision without the threat of going to court.
- If one party is not able to engage in Collaborative negotiations and wants the attorney to speak for him or her throughout the process.
Is Collaborative Law only for easy cases?
No. Collaborative Law is designed to work for all types of cases, from simple to very difficult. The appropriateness of Collaborative Law is not related to the complexity of a case. The range of issues addressed through Collaborative Law include those that must be addressed in any divorce: asset valuation and division, spousal and child support, college costs, taxes, health and life insurance, parenting plan, and business interests.
Is Collaborative Law expensive?
No divorce process is inexpensive unless it involves a very short-term marriage with no children or divisible property. Experienced Collaborative professionals note that the cost of a Collaborative divorce is not substantially different from the cost of divorce mediation in which each party is represented by counsel. Experience has also hown that the cost of a Collaborative divorce is almost always significantly less than a litigated divorce. The goal of Collaborative Law is to achieve an agreement that will last – this means that the agreement will anticipate the family’s future needs.
What if the other party will not agree to Collaborative Law?
Collaborative Law cases cannot proceed unless both parties retain attorneys trained in Collaborative Law and the attorneys, clients, and coach/facilitator sign a Collaborative Process Agreement.
What if one party wants to leave Collaborative Law?
Collaborative Law is entirely voluntary. Either party may withdraw from the process by giving notice to the other, and the Collaborative case ends. Each Collaborative attorney assists his or her client in transitioning the case to successor counsel.
Once a settlement is reached, what are the next steps?
Once a settlement is reached, the attorneys draft an agreement that reflects the decisions made by the parties. A finalized agreement is submitted to the Court for approval in an uncontested hearing.
Learn more about how Collaborative Law helps settle issues relating to:
Co-Parenting and Divorce
Money and Divorce
Divorce of Same Sex Spouses
Children Born out of Wedlock
Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements
Domestic Partnership Dissolution