In the Collaborative Law process, the couple and their attorneys commit to a process that is grounded in voluntary disclosure of all information, full transparency, and good faith negotiation. All parties agree that no one will take any disputed issue to court. Instead, the Collaborative “team” (made up of at least two Collaborative Law trained attorneys and the couple, but which may also include a Child Specialist, Coaches, a Financial Neutral, and/or a team facilitator), focuses its attention on finding ways to move the family from one household into two, making sure that everyone in the family gets their needs met.
The couple and their attorneys sign a Participation Agreement in order to proceed in Collaborative Divorce, which contains a disqualification clause in the event the divorce is not completed in the Collaborative process. This means that if either party decides to opt-out of the process, the Collaborative attorneys must withdraw and the parties must start over with new litigation counsel. Because starting over is an expensive and time-consuming endeavor, this disqualification clause is a good deterrent against short-term emotions and impulses. The agreement encourages cooperation and allows attorneys to work together for the family as a whole, rather than against each other strategizing for trial down the road. Although each attorney must still advocate for their individual client, the Participation Agreement ensures that all parties understand the process, and are committed to making the process work to its full potential.
Coaches are mental health professionals who assist parties in managing their emotions during the divorce, so those emotions don’t hijack the process. The Coaches are not there to give therapy, but tools to assist the parties in getting through a difficult process. They also help parents put together a Parenting Plan when there are minor children involved. A Child Neutral may be included to meet with the children and parents and give feedback on child developmental issues and good recommendations for placement or co-parenting. That feedback is what the Coaches use to help parents put together their Parenting Plan. A Financial Neutral is often employed to gather and go through the parties’ finances, and present options for property division or support scenarios. Having a neutral assist helps the parties see the financial information in a non-defensive way, so the needs of all can be met and balanced against competing emotions.
All negotiations in the Collaborative process are confidential and cannot be disclosed, and any experts are retained jointly to lower costs. All team members and experts are subject to the same disqualification clause, and cannot be called to testify in a litigation setting. A mediator can also be used in the Collaborative process if there are impasses that need to be overcome. For more information about the process or individual team member options please visit the State site at www.collabdivorce.com, or the national website at www.collaborativepractice.com
If you are interested in discussing collaborative law and how it could help your case, contact us today. Our team can talk with you about your goals, your case, and how collaborative law may be the right way to help you reach your objectives.