In this age of social media and online information, we still receive old fashioned phone calls asking a very appropriate question: Do both me and my husband/wife/partner need to have a collaborative lawyer to use the process?
It is an important question to ask. Divorce options available to a couple may seem confusing and, depending upon the practitioner, somewhat murky in terms of time and cost. On more than one occasion, a caller has told us that that a practitioner claimed that they “do collaborative divorce” even though not trained in the process because it really is just a way to reach an agreement with the other attorney/party.
A greater mischaracterization of the process is unlikely. As attorneys, coaches and financial neutrals receive training in the collaborative process, they agree to several basic principles. First, the client controls the process, and it is the agreement of the parties that matters most. Discussions occur outside the court process with an eye toward a unique and tailored solution.
Second, the practitioners and the parties agree that if they want to end the effort and “go to court” they do so without the professionals on the collaborative team. They must start over with new attorneys and new experts. This is to prevent what amounts to legal bullying: agree or we go to court.
Third, the interests of everyone and everything is on the table for discussion, and the goal is an agreement made by the family for the family. The team members are involved to help make that happen.
Collaborative training requires the professionals involved to think differently about their roles. Trained to act differently. Trained to help the clients – the collective client – reach a solution that makes sense for them. Without a signed Collaborative participation agreement, one cannot claim to have engaged in the collaborative process.
So back to the question: do we both need a collaborative lawyer? Consider that the collaborative process is dramatically different from other options: clients in charge, team members support a collective workable solution, no secrets or lack of transparency and neither side can threaten the other with “court.”
It is easy to see why the answer is yes. It’s really all about what’s in a name.