Collaborative law is a way of practicing law in which the attorneys for both of the parties in a family dispute agree to assist them in resolving conflict or legal issues using cooperative strategies, instead of adversarial techniques and litigation. To be "adverse" means to oppose, while "advocating" means speaking up for.
Early, nonadversarial, participation by attorneys allows the parties and attorneys to use the more positive aspects of good lawyering not often seen in adversarial proceedings, such as:
- Rational analysis
- Creative problem solving
- Generating multiple options
- Maintaining a positive context for settlement and
- Building a foundation for long-term coparenting
Advantages of Collaborative Law
Collaborative divorce law is:
Collaborative law allows you control the proceedings, instead of a judge.
The Collaborative Process
The first step in the collaborative process is to determine what you have (such as assets and income) using an informal, trust-based "share and verify" approach. This is on improvement on the usual expensive and divisive legal procedures to get this information. You’re asked to disclose this information voluntarily and to verify it with documentation and tax returns. If an expert (such as a tax consultant or a pension evaluator) is needed, the choice is an agreed one.
At what are known as "4-way conferences, the parties and their collaborative lawyers (and sometimes other professionals) sit around a table and discuss the issues and seek ways to create or arrive at agreement. They brainstorm any and all possible solutions. All parties focus on ways to resolve the problem, instead of seeing the other party as the problem and attacking -which never works well.
Each spouse often starts seeing things more from their spouse’s position.
When you reach an agreement through collaborative law, one of the lawyers drafts legal documents to convert their informal agreements into legally binding ones which are then submitted to the Court for approval without having to go through a long court hearing.
What Happens If Settlement Can’t Be Reached?
If you can’t arrive at a settlement through the collaborative-law approach, the collaborative lawyers withdraw from the case and you’re free to hire trial attorneys to tackle your issues in court. That way, you’ll have had the best representation for each phase of their proceeding.
Any person approaching a divorce situation should talk with a collaborative lawyer to get an assessment of his or her situation to see if it might be settled without litigation. The earlier this is done, the more chance there is for the other party to be oriented toward a settlement approach.
No matter what settlement approach is chosen, a collaborative lawyer is a valuable ally.