What is the Goal of Collaborative Law?
The goal or purpose of collaborative law is to offer lawyers and their clients a structured, non-adversarial alternative to an increasingly adversarial system of dispute resolution. It guarantees consumers of legal services high quality, skilled legal counsel to assist in the evaluation and resolution of a problem, without litigation.

What Are the Benefits of Collaborative Family Law?
Collaborative family law focuses on all involved parties reaching a mutually agreed upon settlement of their disputes. The process results in valuable benefits. It creates a cooperative environment where communication remains open, which provides a setting where you can work with your spouse to meet each of your needs and your children’s needs. You and your spouse shape the agreements together thus, you are more likely to abide by your agreements and maintain a tone of open communication and reduced conflict in the future. The collaborative process diminishes the parental conflict the adversarial system generates and helps protect children from facing the anguish and divided loyalties that result.

A cooperative team approach is utilized instead of the adversarial approach. Your lawyer supports you and your spouse’s lawyer supports your spouse, but you all work together and, in doing so, the parties retain control of the process. In matters requiring parenting and/or financial expert opinions, both parties can jointly hire one independent consultant. That helps shorten the duration of the case and reduce the overall expense. You can schedule meetings without waiting for court dates and generally spend less time and, consequently, less money to reach closure. The fear and anxiety associated with court proceedings is also avoided and you have more privacy, greater confidentiality, and less stress during an already stressful time.

For Whom is Collaborative Law a Good Idea?
Consumers of legal services looking for experienced legal counsel and skilled advocacy, but do not want the stress, threat and cost of litigation. Not every lawyer will want or be able to practice collaborative law. Not every case will be appropriate for collaborative law, nor will every client be interested in avoiding the adversarial contest. For many, however, the adversarial experience has led to a belief that the commitment of time, energy, and money to an adversarial case often does not achieve an outcome which provides a cost effective or even the most beneficial solution to clients’ problems.

Can a Lawyer Represent a Client Zealously If It Is Agreed in Advance Not To Go To Court?
By entering into the Collaborative Process, lawyers and their clients have thoughtfully agreed to limit the lawyers’ roles to that of providing representation for settlement purposes only. In stepping out of the adversarial process, the collaborative lawyer does not give up the role of advocate for his or her client and none of a lawyer’s duties or obligations to a client are affected by this limitation.

Will my Lawyer Approach a Collaborative Law Case based upon How my Lawyer Assesses the Likely Outcome of the Client’s Case if it was Litigated?
Although while in the Collaborative Process no party is to threaten litigation, the lawyers advise as to strengths and weaknesses of the case and should make an assessment as to the likely outcome if the case were to be litigated. Application of the law and client’s legal rights are critical in determining the fair and appropriate outcome in the collaborative process, as well as consideration of many other factors including costs and risks of litigation.

How is a Lawyer’s Relationship With a Client Different in the Collaborative Law Process?
The lawyer has the same responsibilities to the client as in adversarial litigation plus some additional duties. The lawyer never ceases to advocate for what is in the best interests of the Client. In addition the lawyer is trained in collaborative communication skills which assist in developing appropriate and, if necessary, creative resolutions to the parties’ issues. Collaborative lawyers encourage a process of cooperation and respect while effectively serving the client’s goals and interests.

How Is Collaborative Law Different From Mediation?
Mediation involves the use of a third party neutral in facilitating the negotiation and settlement of a dispute and typically occurs for a portion of one day – if no resolution is reached, the parties engage in further protracted litigation. In the Collaborative Process, lawyers and their clients will communicate and negotiate with or without the assistance of a third party neutral with a commitment to continuing the dialogue and involving neutral experts until a satisfactory solution is reached since litigation is not an option.

What if the Settlement is Not Achieved Cooperatively? Can a client opt out of the Collaborative Process?
In the event the parties are unable to arrive at a settlement through the Collaborative Process (or a party for some reason simply decides the Collaborative Process is no longer suitable), the lawyers withdraw from the case and the parties are free to retain other trial attorneys to pursue their matter in court. The result is that the parties will have the best representation for each phase of the proceeding and possibly save time spent in a subsequent, costlier trial.

Where can I find more information about Collaborative Law?
The national Collaborative Law Practice website can be found at www.collaborativepractice.com.

SOURCE: DivorceNet