How and Why Collaborative Family Law Works - The Tour
Each party hires a specially trained collaborative attorney, and together you build your team with other collaborative professionals as needed. The first agreement in the process is that you both agree not to go to court, but rather work to resolve your situation together.
Your attorneys and other team members also pledge in writing that if you decide to pursue court action, they will withdraw and not represent you in court. This is a significant, and absolute, component of the Collaborative Process.
You and the other party and your respective attorneys promise in writing to an open and voluntarily disclosure of all financial and other relevant information, to proceed respectfully and in good faith as you negotiate toward a settlement. All of you also promise to refrain from the threat or use of litigation. Because everyone involved is committed to voluntarily disclosing necessary information, formal discovery tools, such as depositions, written interrogatories, or subpoenas, are unnecessary. And there is no place for argumentative, accusatory, or threatening letters between attorneys.
Finally, the Collaborative Process requires that the best interests of all family members must be respected and considered in the process. Most parents truly want the best for their children, and all family members must recognize and accept this best interest standard.
Steps in the Process
Consider the collaborative process as a funnel - a series of steps designed to resolve issues methodically and carefully:
In the collaborative process, you'll hear the term interest-based negotiation. It's an approach to dispute resolution which helps redirect the parties from wanting a certain outcome, or taking a certain position, and refocuses them on underlying needs, wants, values and objectives.
When an Agreement is Reached
Once an agreement is reached on all of the issues, the agreement is spelled out in a written document. The document is filed with the court and the parties proceed to an uncontested final court hearing. At the hearing, the court approves the agreement and grants the judgment.
How the Collaborative Process is Different than Litigation or Mediation
Litigation is the traditional divorce process when both parties hire attorneys to provide legal advice and represent the positions of their clients in negotiations and court hearings. Litigation is an adversarial process because each attorney advocates positions based on their client's often-competing personal wants, needs and viewpoints. The parties communicate primarily through their attorneys, rather than directly with one another, regarding their positions, proposals and counterproposals.
Fundamentally, litigation is controlled by the attorneys and the court; in collaborative law you control the process as you can see in this comparison:
In contrast to the attorney's role in the litigation model, collaborative attorneys function as settlement specialists rather than solely as adversarial advocates.