The Collaborative Approach to Resolving Family Law Issues
Collaborative law is an innovative way to resolve conflict by removing the disputed matter from the litigious courtroom setting to a “troubleshoot and problem solve“ process with the use of collaborative professionals, rather than to fight and win. As part of the collaborative process, both parties retain separate attorneys to help them settle their dispute. No one may go to court. If that should occur, the collaborative law process terminates and both lawyers are disqualified from any further involvement in the case. Each party in the collaborative law process signs a contractual agreement, which includes the following terms:
Disclosure of Documents
Each party agrees to honestly and openly disclose all documents and information relating to the issues. No one may take advantage of a miscalculation or an inadvertent mistake. Instead, such errors are identified and corrected.
Each party agrees to act respectfully and avoid disparaging or vilifying any of the participants.
As part of the process all participants agree to insulate the children from the proceeding and to act in such a way as to minimize the impact of the family law dispute on them.
The parties agree to implement outside experts where necessary in a cooperative fashion and share the costs related to those experts, e.g., real estate appraisers, business appraisers, parenting consultants, vocational evaluators, or accountants.
The primary goal of the process is to work toward an amicable solution and to create a “win-win” situation for all.
Neither party may seek or threaten a court action to resolve disputes. If the parties decide to go to court, the attorneys must withdraw and the process begins anew in the court system.
A team of professionals is assembled to help the parties understand and resolve their disputes in many different ways. The disputes may be legal, emotional, and/or financial. The team may consist of mental health counselors/coaches for each party, neutral financial advisors, accountants, parenting specialists, child specialists, vocational experts and appraisers, if needed. A brief description of the role of each involved collaborative professional are listed below.
Though collaborative practice seeks to avoid going to court, the settlement is still a legal agreement. Therefore, it is essential that a lawyer be involved to advise you on all matters of law, from child custody and support to maintenance agreements to financial settlements and property distribution. Collaborative lawyers have made a commitment to the unique practice of the collaborative model.
Divorce is a major life transition; while it marks the end of one part of your life, it is also the beginning of another. A divorce coach helps you manage the pain and strain of changing relationships, while focusing on goals for the present and future. Working with you to make the most of your strengths, your divorce coach assists you in being at your best during the divorce process, then taking positive steps to a new life.
The divorce settlement will in part determine your financial well-being for many years to come. It is critical that it be soundly structured, especially if your spouse assumed more responsibility for your family’s finances. The guidance of a financial consultant will help protect your interests. Reviewing all assets and incomes, the financial consultant will assist you in developing viable financial options for your future. Evaluating the choices, you and your lawyer can then construct a comprehensive plan for the next stage of your life.
Children may suffer most from divorce, and be least able to understand or express their feelings. Their world is being turned upside down in ways that they cannot begin to comprehend. Communication with parents may be difficult, if not impossible. A goal of collaborative practice is to assure that children are a priority, not a casualty. The child specialist, an individual skilled in understanding children, will meet with your children privately, assisting them in expressing their feelings and concerns about the divorce. Encouraging children to think creatively about the future, the child specialist then communicates their feelings, concerns and hopes to the team to consider when planning for the children’s lives.