An Overview of the Collaborative Law Process

The collaborative process resolves disputes through a short series of creative, good faith, non-adversarial negotiation sessions.  Collaborative attorneys receive significant and ongoing training in a special set of negotiation skills, including the ability to foster positive, respectful, and cooperative communications during collaborative negotiation sessions.  The attorneys work with their clients and each other to ensure that the negotiations are cooperative, respectful, balanced, positive, and productive.  These are critically important skills, particularly in situations where the parties have children or wish to have a continuing relationship.

The hallmarks of the collaborative process are: (1) an agreement that neither party will go to court or threaten to go to court; (2) a cooperative, respectful approach; and (3) participation in good faith.  The parties and attorneys enter into a four-way agreement providing that the involved attorneys will not participate in any kind of litigation relating to the matter.  This disqualification incentivizes all involved to work toward a resolution.  All funds spent in a collaborative matter relate to the settlement of the case.  All experts (i.e. divorce coach, financial professional, valuation experts, appraisers) must be neutral and jointly retained by the parties.  Neither party may retain an individual expert, as parties work together, not separately, in the collaborative process to resolve their differences.  All professionals, including attorneys, coaches, appraisers, and financial consultants, must withdraw if a party commences litigation.

The collaborative process is significantly faster, less adversarial, and less expensive than litigation.  Information and documents are exchanged voluntarily and cooperatively, rather than because of formal requests, which clients often find intrusive and upsetting.  The parties participate in multiple meetings, each of which follows an agenda and is designed to address a specific goal or set of goals, working toward the ultimate goal of global dispute resolution.  These sessions are private, respectful, and scheduled on dates that are convenient for all involved.  In the sessions, the parties work together to create results that meet the needs of each, rather than engaging in posturing and focusing on rights and entitlements.  The parties are encouraged to offer ideas and suggestions that would resolve concerns raised by either party.  This brainstorming environment, in which the goal is a satisfactory resolution for both parties, often leads to very creative results and a high degree of satisfaction for both participants.

The collaborative process is focused entirely on settlement.  The parties and professionals are, at all times, focused on resolving the matter and preservation of the parties’ relationship, privacy and respect for each other.  When the parties reach a final agreement, settlement documents are drafted by the attorneys and then reviewed and edited by all until everyone is satisfied.  The court record available to the public will only contain final settlement documents and, in most instances, neither party will need to appear in court.

In sum, the collaborative process permits parties to dissolve their marriage in a private and respectful setting.  The collaborative environment typically produces more creative and satisfactory outcomes.  Although any type of divorce can be difficult, clients enjoy a very high degree of satisfaction with the collaborative process as compared to other methods of resolution.