Collaborative Law is an innovative process used to resolve legal disputes. It is characterized by the use of cooperative rather than adversarial strategies, and excludes litigation as a means to resolution. In a Collaborative Law case each party is represented by his or her own attorney. However, instead of using the customary and sometimes hostile adversary negotiations and divisive court proceedings, the collaborators commit to work cooperatively and respectfully to reach a settlement. The Collaborative Law approach focuses on reaching a settlement that meets the needs of the parties and their children, rather than focusing on preparing for and conducting a trial. After reaching settlement through the Collaborative Law process the necessary documents are prepared and submitted by counsel to the Court where the final Decree of Dissolution is entered.
Before a collaborative case begins, the parties and the attorneys sign a Collaborative Law Agreement that commits the attorneys and the parties to full disclosure of all relevant information, to commit to cooperation in the collaborative process, and not to engage in court litigation. The agreement includes a provision that if either party fails to act cooperatively in the process, or if either party should choose to go to Court, both attorneys must withdraw from the case and the clients must each seek new trial counsel. This agreement helps ensure a strong commitment to resolve the issues through collaboration.
At the outset of a Collaborative Law case, the two attorneys discuss the specific collaborative protocols, including voluntary, open and Full Disclosure of information and documentation.
Collaborative settlement discussions occur in Four-Party Conferences with both parties and both attorneys in attendance.
The collaborative team may include Collaborative Divorce Coaches who act as coaches for the parties, or as child specialists providing insight and assistance with child-related issues. In addition, if needed and agreed upon by the parties, a mutually acceptable Financial Expert is included in the process where appropriate to assist the parties with financial or tax related analysis and advice.
The attorneys, financial experts and collaborative divorce coaches in the group are skilled and trained in the area. The overriding goal of the collaborative professionals is to assist divorcing parties reach fair and workable agreements and Protect Family Relationships.