Collaborative Law is a process that allows you and your spouse to resolve all the legal aspects of your separation or divorce without ever going to court. This process offers a civilized, rational resolution to completing your family’s separation and is particularly suited for couples who have children.
The collaborative process is a team approach to dispute resolution whereby the parties and their lawyers meet together for scheduled sessions to find solutions to legal issues in a safe and dignified manner. Both parties retain their own independent attorneys, but the collaborative team also includes a neutral coach/facilitator and if necessary a mental health professional to help address emotional issues that may arise during the negotiations.
Meetings are held at each attorney’s office and typically last two to three hours. Each session is focused on one issue at a time and is guided by agendas set by the client and their lawyer. The coaches/facilitators play a crucial role in facilitating the discussion and helping to move the discussions forward. Unlike in litigation, all meetings are confidential and all major negotiations take place during carefully planned meetings involving both clients, their attorneys and the coach/facilitator.
During these sessions agreements are reached that are then reflected in the final Marital Settlement Agreement or Separation Agreement. Your attorneys will prepare the final documents and submit them to the court for approval in an uncontested hearing.
The most important thing to understand about Collaborative Law is that participation in the process is voluntary. A client may withdraw at any time and, if a party does so, the collaborative matter terminates. The collaborative lawyer will assist the client in engaging new counsel and transferring the case to that new counsel.
This rule is designed to protect the integrity of the collaborative process and the interests of clients. Collaborative lawyers are required to inquire at the initial professional engagement and throughout the collaborative process whether there has been a history of coercive or violent behavior between the parties in a family law matter and, if so, make reasonable efforts to screen for any such potential coercive or violent behavior at subsequent meetings.
In addition, a key element of the Rule is that any party to a case can engage new counsel at any time and if a client elects to do so, that new counsel must participate in the collaborative process. This rule helps to ensure that the process remains neutral and non-adversarial and that each party is represented by a knowledgeable lawyer with the experience necessary for resolving complex family matters.