In collaborative divorce each party retains a registered collaborative lawyer to support them in negotiating an agreement on all issues without going to court. Both clients and both lawyers attend all negotiation meetings.
The process begins with parties signing a collaborative law participation agreement and committing to confidentiality, privacy and full disclosure of all relevant information needed to resolve the issues in dispute.
This allows parties to speak more openly and to explore creative options without the background threat of court. The lawyers advocate for their clients, guide them towards reasonable resolutions and provide legal advice, but the divorcing parties make all decisions.
The parties can agree to engage other professionals such as child specialists, financial specialists, divorce coaches or other neutral consultants to support them in negotiations, acknowledging that the best result for each occurs when it’s the best result for all.
If either party decides to go to court, or threatens to go to court, both collaborative lawyers are disqualified from further participation and litigation lawyers must be retained.
How are questions relating to children addressed in Collaborative Practice?
The collaborative process supports development of a healthy co-parenting relationship while transitioning to two households. Collaborative lawyers, divorce coaches and child specialists can all assist in ensuring the agreement supports the children’s best interests.
How is information gathered in Collaborative Practice?
The parties and their collaborative lawyers agree to share all necessary information and documents voluntarily and in a timely fashion. Hiding documents or unnecessary delays are not permitted. If a party is not acting in good faith, that person’s lawyer must address the behavior with the client or withdraw if the behavior continues. If a party continues to refuse to act in good faith, the collaborative process can be terminated.
The parties may seek outside expertise, such as jointly hiring a financial specialist to assist them in gathering and organizing financial information and to create financial projections. They may also jointly engage an appraiser to assist in determining the value of assets ranges.
If the parties reach an agreement what’s next?
The collaborative lawyers draft the necessary legal and court documents to formalize the agreement. If a divorce is required, the appropriate legal documents will be then submitted to the court for approval. A court hearing is not required. Neither the lawyers nor the parties appear in court.
What happens if a settlement cannot be reached?
If the parties cannot reach an agreement, they can explore other collaborative options such as mediation or arbitration or retain new lawyers and move to litigation.
Who should consider the Collaborative approach?
Collaborative practice works best for parties who wish to settle without going to court and are willing to commit to a good faith effort to do so. Collaborative practice is best for those who:
- Want a respectful, civilized resolution of issues
- Want to protect children from a protracted, hostile separation process
- Want to effectively co-parent children now and in the future
- Want to explore a range of options to find the best solution for individuals and family as whole
- Want to make their own decisions rather than have a judge decide important aspects of their future.
- Want to maintain greater privacy of information
- Want to preserve relationships with their co-parent, mutual business colleagues, friends or family
* adapted from materials by Catherine Conner and Margaret Anderson