Collaborative law is a process used to resolve family and other disputes respectfully and equitably without going to court. Each party retains his or her own attorney who has been specially trained in the collaborative law process to advise and assist in negotiating an agreement. The negotiations take place out of court in a series of meetings. The goal is to help individuals to focus on what is most important to them. The collaborative law process is ideal for individuals who want reasonable and practical solutions. Here are five key points that help to summarize the collaborative law process and its importance in family law:
- The collaborative process is designed to maximize outcomes and cost effectiveness:
The goal of collaborative law is to reach an agreement that meets the needs of both parties (and children). The process can reduce unnecessary and destructive conflict. Unlike litigation, which is adversarial by nature, collaborative law attorneys work together to reach a mutually beneficial agreement. Clients are empowered to be active participants in their family law matter rather than have a third party make decisions on their behalf. Settlement is based on the underlying needs, interests and values of the parties rather than a compromise motivated by the fear of avoiding court.
- Collaborative law attorneys are committed to settlement:
Not only are collaborative attorneys committed to settlement, they also pledge not to go to court. If for some reason an agreement cannot be reached through the collaborative law process and the clients go to litigation, the attorneys are actually disqualified from representing their respective clients in the case. Collaborative professionals usually have had special training to help promote constructive settlements.
- The collaborative law team can help to reach a mutually beneficial agreement for the parties:
In addition to the attorneys, collaborative law affords the clients the opportunity to have a neutral financial professional and mental health professional included in the process. These professionals round out the collaborative team, and by working together, the road to the final agreement can be smoother. Other professionals can also be involved, including a child specialist and divorce coach. The collaborative professionals help the clients define an effective settlement that meets everyone’s needs. More information about these professionals can be found on the practice pages of my website.
- Principles of Collaborative Law
There are certain common core values and principles of collaborative law that make it an attractive process for individuals look to resolve their situation in an amicable way:
- Respect and dignity for the other party and other professionals;
- Full disclosure of all relevant financial and other information and documents needed to make informed decisions;
- Commitment to meeting the needs of the entire family;
- Direct communication between the parties and the professionals;
- Use of interest-based negotiation rather than positional bargaining.
- Confidentiality of Collaborative Process
In the collaborative process, the parties agree by contract on the inadmissibility of collaborative communication and documents. This contract is called a participation agreement. This agreement provides a structure for how the parties and the collaborative professionals will work together towards settlement. Privacy and confidentiality are major incentives for many families to use the collaborative process for sensitive family law matters.
There are clear differences between the collaborative approach to settlement and the adversarial model. Collaborative professionals understand that both parties have important concerns that need to be understood and addressed for a good settlement to be reached. Choosing the right process for family law matters is important because how the negotiation process is conducted impacts the health and well being of the family in moving towards the future.