Why Collaborative Family Law?

  • Avoid Court – Everyone can focus on a settlement without the constant threat of “going to court.”
  • Cooperative Approach – You are each supported and represented by your own lawyer and, yet, you can cooperate confidently with your spouse and his or her lawyer in resolving your issues.
  • Client Participation – You are a vital part of the settlement team (consisting of both parties and both attorneys).
  • Clients in Charge – The process is empowering, informative, and less stressful than court. You control the proceedings. Your destiny and that of your family is not in the hands of a third party (court).
  • Collaborative Lawyers – Both parties have skilled family lawyers committed to the collaborative process of settling without the threat of “going to court.”
  • It Works – The collaborative law process works if problem solving is more important than fighting and you want solutions that are fair for both of you.

How Do Collaborative Lawyers Work?

  • Informal four-party conferences where the future well-being of you and your family is the number one goal.
  • Complete, honest exchange of information in an informal setting.
  • Using creative problem-solving techniques to assist you in producing an agreement tailored to the needs of you and your family.
  • Your spouse and his or her attorney are treated as part of a settlement team, not adversaries.
  • Both attorneys are concerned about the process, as well as the outcome.
  • Your collaborative lawyers are committed to finding constructive ways to achieve a settlement that will work best in your case. Their basic philosophy is to focus on a settlement without a trial.
  • The lawyers have a financial incentive to succeed. They must settle your case or withdraw.

What Happens If Settlement Cannot Be Reached?
In the event the parties are unable to reach a settlement through the collaborative process, the collaborative lawyers withdraw from the case and the parties are free to hire trial attorneys to pursue the matter in court.

How Does It Work?
With the collaborative approach, both parties and their attorneys enter into a commitment agreement to the process. The attorneys are involved early in the process to facilitate full disclosure by both parties and to use reasoning and analysis to generate fair and just options for a fair settlement. The goal is to minimize adversity in the process and reach an equitable solution without court.

What If It Does Not Work?
In order for collaborative family law to work, incentives and disincentives are built into the process. The incentives are to eliminate court, reduce time and save the emotional expense that comes with animosity between the parties and lengthy court battles. The disincentive occurs if the process breaks down. As part of the commitment agreement, the collaborative attorneys must withdraw from the case if the process breaks down or proves unsuccessful. Both attorneys will assist in locating trial lawyers for the clients and provide a quick, efficient transition.

What Issues Can Be Resolved with Collaborative Family Law?

  1. Separation and divorce
  2. Non-marital relationship breakup
  3. Custody arrangements and parenting issues
  4. Guardianship
  5. Spousal and child support
  6. Division of assets and debts
  7. Modification of existing orders

Key Benefits

  1. Avoid court battles
  2. Focus on the children
  3. Client is empowered by the process
  4. Can save time
  5. Cost-effective
  6. Cooperative approach
  7. Informal setting
  8. Creative problem solving
  9. It benefits everyone
  10. It works—the collaborative law process works if problem-solving is more important than fighting and both parties want to reach fair and just solutions.

Getting Started
If you’ve made your decision to proceed, here’s how to get started:

  1. Talk with your spouse or opposing party about Collaborative Family Law and share the information provided on this website.
  2. Both parties need to choose a collaborative lawyer from the list of trained professionals on this site.
  3. Meet individually with your own collaborative lawyer to discuss the details of the collaborative law process in your situation.
  4. Both parties and both lawyers sign a collaborative law agreement.
  5. Both parties and their lawyers attend the first collaborative law meeting.

About Mental Health Professionals

Mental Health Practitioners serve special functions in the collaborative process. They are trained and experienced in collaboration reducing conflict, finding bridges and generating solutions that work for ALL parties involved, each divorcing partner and child. An annual peer review and certification process ensures that each practitioner has met the following minimum expectations: is licensed and in good standing in his/her profession, has current malpractice insurance, has experience with family court, and has special training and experience in his/her area of specialty.

Mental Health Practitioners serve in several capacities to assist a process where all voices are heard.

As a COACH a practitioner works only during the divorce and will:

  • Identify with each divorcing partner issues both individually and within the marital relationship that may lead to barriers to the collaborative process
  • Provide support and for each divorcing partner to facilitate solid participation in the process with attorneys, financial consultants and each other
  • Provide support and information to other professional team members in the collaborative process around relevant mental health issues that may create barriers to that process
  • Identify strengths and weaknesses in communication styles among participating parties, and if needed, teach more effective skills

As a SPECIALIST, a practitioner works only during the divorce and provides specific input in areas of disability determination, chemical dependency evaluation, psychiatric evaluation, psychological assessment, evaluation of child(ren)s needs, etc. All specialists share the following role:

  • Help collaborative team mediate discrepancies in plans between parents
  • Identify issues that may be barring this process so that coach(es) can assist their clients working through them
  • Provide specific evaluations to help further the divorce process and recommend treatment as needed

In addition, a CHILD SPECIALIST is a practitioner who has special knowledge and expertise in working with children and will:

  • Assess the child(ren)s emotional adjustment and emotional needs
  • Provide parent education on the current and potential impact of divorce on their child(ren), including the need for connection with both parents
  • Help parents develop skills to co-parent to the degree possible
  • Identify initial aims of each parent around their ideas for living arrangements of their child(ren)
  • Provide education and feedback to parents about their approach to and expectations for their child(ren)s reactions to divorce given developmental levels, nature and history of parental conflict, existing relationships between each parent and child(ren)
  • Help parents develop appropriate and feasible structure for general living arrangements, vacations, right of first refusal, etc.

A practitioner in a SUPPORTING role is involved with one or both divorcing partners, child(ren), and/or the family in an on-going way, during and after the divorce. A practitioner may be involved by referral for on-going therapy for an individual or family to address specific therapeutic needs identified during the collaborative process.

SOURCE: Kentucky Collaborative Family Network