The Collaborative Divorce Process is a way of practicing law where the attorneys for both of the parties in a divorce agree to assist them in resolving conflict or legal issues using cooperative strategies rather than adversarial techniques and court proceedings.
The Collaborative Process started in Minnesota in 1990 in the Twin Cities’ area with an initial group of four family-law lawyers. Since then, it has spread across the United States and Canada.
There are many advantages to using an attorney that practices Collaborative Divorce Law. The process is usually less time consuming and more cost effective than going through the adversarial system. The Collaborative Process uses a team approach to reaching a settlement. Both parties to the divorce are supported by their lawyers; however, they work cooperatively with their spouse. The process is much less fear and anxiety producing than using court proceedings or the threat of court proceedings. When the threat of going to court is out of the picture, it is easier to focus on reaching a settlement. When a settlement is reached amicably, it feels much more like a ‘win-win’ situation. In the Collaborative Process, there is a parity of payment to each attorney so that neither party’s representation is deprived by lack of funds.
The Collaborative Process uses informal discussions and conferences attended by both spouses and their attorneys to settle all issues. The Collaborative Process relies on an atmosphere of honesty, cooperation, integrity, and professionalism. It requires that both spouses, with the assistance of their attorneys, provide all pertinent documents and information relating to the issues to be settled. In the event that experts are necessary, it encourages the use of jointly retained experts. Both spouses and attorneys are required to work together toward a shared resolution that is geared toward the future well being of the family.
If the parties cannot reach a settlement through the collaborative process approach, the collaborative lawyers withdraw from the case and the parties are free to retain trial attorneys to pursue the matter in court.
The collaborative process is not right for every case. The decision of whether or not your case is appropriate for the collaborative law process must be discussed with the attorney you select. If you wish to consider the collaborative law process for your divorce, consult with an attorney trained and educated in this specific area before you decide how to proceed in your case.
It takes a strong commitment on both sides to be honest and open in exchanging information, but if you and your spouse can agree to use the collaborative process, it is a viable alternative to divorce litigation.