Collaborative practice is a model for dispute resolution in which each party creatively reaches agreement on all relevant issues without having to go to court. The Collaborative team is made up of specially trained independent individuals including attorneys, financial professionals, coaches, family professionals, child specialists, or others whom have been trained on the Collaborative process. All of those participating in the Collaborative process agree to remain neutral and to guide and support each party. A primary goal of the collaborative model is to avoid subjecting children to court-appointed forensics and emotionally damaging litigation.

The collaborative practice it not the same as meditation. While the collaborative team is trained in meditative techniques, it is very rare that clients in mediation have their advocates in the room with their mediators. The mediator represents neither party and remains neutral without giving legal “advice”.  In the collaborative process, clients attend all meetings accompanied by their attorneys, coaches, and others who make of their chosen team. The goal of the process is to create a unified settlement, in writing, that meets the needs of the whole family, children included, with a resolution deemed acceptable to both spouses.

To maximize a respectful and professional settlement, you hire your own specially-trained collaborative family law attorney. Your spouse hires his or her own collaborative lawyer. You and your spouse then select a Neutral Mental Health Facilitator, who is a mental health professional trained in the collaborative divorce process (this is not therapy) to work with you as the settlement unfolds. When appropriate, a collaboratively-trained neutral financial specialist can become part of your “team.” Thus, the collaborative process provides the ideal comprehensive legal, emotional and financial expertise needed to keep you informed until you resolve all issues.

To help divorcing and separating couples focus on what is most important to them throughout the divorce process. The end result is a more efficient, targeted and productive way to resolve disputes, which produces longer lasting agreements.

No, not usually. By having each legal, psychological and financial professional perform the services for which each is specially trained, the process frequently costs less, both financially and emotionally. You control the cost of the process. The level of support needed, and the level of conflict, determines the number and length of meetings needed to work through all issues. There is a consensus among collaborative practitioners that the collaborative process is the most cost-effective model for resolving disputes. It optimizes the legal, emotional and financial results for both you and your children.

Collaborative practice is different from divorce in the following ways:

Collaborative Practice promotes respect and keeps you — not a judge — in control of the outcome.

It addresses each individual’s unique concerns, as opposed to litigation which is driven by general rules of law, which were developed to solve the problems of people who cannot assume the responsibility of amicably resolving their conflict without a judge.

Because you and your lawyer agree not to go to court, the process is more open and less adversarial.

Unlike mediation, your own lawyer works with you throughout the process, attending every meeting, as well as providing you with private independent legal advice.

The collaborative process:

  • Decreases fear and anger and increases family functionality.
  • Empowers you to control the process and the cost. In a court setting, a judge or the “other” lawyer may significantly affect the financial and emotional costs.
  • Uses “transparent,” voluntary financial disclosure, eliminating the time and expense of formal financial discovery procedures.
  • Utilizes neutral financial experts.
  • Avoids motion practice, which is not only expensive, but often unnecessarily inflames the situation.
  • Eliminates court appearances and waiting time. Every hour is spent working only towards problem resolution.
  • Uses a team of professionals to assist you to evaluate available solutions more efficiently and accurately.

For most couples, the collaborative process is highly successful. The professional team develops options for settlement for you. You choose the resolution which works best. You are guided to improve your communication skills and play an active, fully-informed role in the process. Through creative problem-solving, the process incorporates the goals of each party and the children. Settlement is easier to achieve because the collaborative process provides a safe place to work through this life transition. Moreover, once the process is completed, the parties are better able to deal with the issues which arise after the divorce.

No, no process is always successful. However, the collaborative process should provide the best forum for this family transition. The collaborative team relies upon and enhances the capacity of the participant to understand both the financial and psychological effects of divorce, and to use the process effectively. The process is not recommended for couples with a history of violence.

Yes. In every case, the Family Specialist keeps the parents focused on the children’s developmental needs. In a some special cases, a Child Specialist is added to the team to evaluate the children’s needs. The feelings, thoughts and concerns of the children are voiced. In all collaborative matters, a unique parenting plan is prepared that is suitable for the children’s developmental stages, now and in the future. If the parents desire, the Family Specialist or Child Specialist will also help the children understand the expected familial changes. The Child Specialist may brainstorm with the children ways to make their adjustment easier and empower the children to feel less vulnerable, as they often feel in the typical litigated divorce.

Understandably, for many reasons, some are uncomfortable negotiating against his or her spouse without professional help. In the collaborative process, that help is right there supporting you, in each meeting, and along every step of the way. Although a mediator may provide some legal information, he or she does not advise either client. In a collaborative four-way settlement meeting, it is encouraged that both parties and their attorneys brainstorm as many options as possible. Once all of the options for each of the issues have been discussed, parties are typically in a better position to engage in a productive conversation, in which an agreement can be reached that is acceptable to all involved.

In collaborative divorce, both spouses are committed to full disclosure of income, marital property, all retirement assets including complex pensions or deferred compensation, and all facts which materially affect the collaborative divorce. The spouses are obligated to produce all financial documents. Collaborative divorce attorneys are fully aware of when the financial picture is not clear and will counsel and advise the couple on what information is required in order to achieve a complete a financial profile. This will be done prior to beginning negotiations. These commitments ensure that in the collaborative divorce process, neither party will enter into a decision using the court system or by concealment of material facts or important financial information. The collaborative process enables both parties to equally voice their needs and expectations until they have reached a mutually suitable agreement.

The collaborative process requires a written commitment to be honest and to provide complete financial disclosure. The professionals enforce this rule. A breach of the rule stops the process, relegating the parties to court.

No. Each party agrees, in writing, to a code of civil conduct. Insults and foul or derogatory language are not permitted. Accusations and threats are not tolerated. Civility is a hallmark of all meetings.

Your collaborative team stands ready to help solve any future problems using the same process.

You will be at every meeting. In between meetings, you have “homework.” This is a party-centered process, which uses the assistance of a team of professionals to resolve all issues.

If one of the parties has committed adultery and the other party is aware, there is no reason why they can’t settle their issues through the collaborative process. Because it is a collaborative, information cannot be withheld from either side. In these cases, it can be especially helpful to have the help of a collaborative coach who can work with the couple in dealing with this very difficult and sensitive issue. It is important that both parties understand the legal ramifications of adultery if they were to go into litigation, for example: the party guilty of adultery might be barred from receiving spousal support.

Each family is in a unique situation which will determine the length of the process. In a collaborative divorce, professionals do their best to be direct and efficient. By focusing on problem-solving and mutual agreement, rather than focusing on blame and grievances, there is a strong likelihood that your divorce can be resolved more quickly than in a litigated divorce.

In a collaborative divorce, respect for one another and open and honest communication are vital. The parties are committed to freely disclosing all financial information and other pertinent materials. However, the are no guarantees that a participant in the collaborative divorce process will be committed to doing so. Your collaborative divorce attorney is trained to pay close attention to the issue of transparency. The collaborative divorce agreement requires the collaborative divorce attorney to withdraw if they become aware that his or her client is being dishonest or leaving out pertinent importation or materials. The same is true if the client fails to keep agreements made during negotiations. If it is decided that one of the parties is being dishonest or fails to disclose any pertinent information, the attorneys must make everyone on the collaborative team aware. You have full ability to end the collaborative process at any time and choose to litigate your case.

The collaborative divorce agreement requires the collaborative divorce attorney to withdraw upon becoming aware that his or her client is being dishonest, or participating in the process in bad faith. For instance, if documents are altered or withheld, or if a client is deliberately delaying matters for economic or other gain, the collaborative divorce attorneys have committed in advance that they will withdraw and will not continue to represent the clients. The same is true if the client fails to keep agreements made during the course of negotiations; for instance, an agreement to consult a vocational counselor, or an agreement to engage in joint parenting counseling or to produce certain documents.

Talk to your spouse about how important your marriage has been to you and your family. Share that you would like to handle your divorce in a way that allows your your family to maintain dignity and respect, without causing any unnecessary damage. Tell your spouse that you are interested in a collaborative approach to ending your marriage, and share materials with them that can help you explain why. Materials are available to share on this website or from other Collaborative Divorce attorneys, groups or organizations. Encourage your spouse to select a family law attorney who has experience and training the collaborative divorce.

If this situation were to arise, it is possible, if everyone agrees (both lawyers and both clients), to submit only those one or two issues for a decision by a “private judge”. This judge is again chosen by both parties. When this occurs, is done with important limitations and safeguards built in, so that the integrity of the process is not undermined. Everyone must agree that the collaborative divorce process would not be damaged by submitting the issues for third party decision.