Collaborative Law is a superior alternative to litigation for many divorcing couples. The litigation process antagonizes the parties, complicates what needs to be simplified, and fails to offer any meaningful resolution of the root causes of the divorce, which are usually highly emotional.
Collaborative employs lawyers, a financial advisor, and counselors in a structured process that leads divorcing couples through the three primary areas needed to accomplish a peaceful, lasting, and satisfying dissolution of marriage: legal, financial, and emotional.
The goal is to dissolve the marriage but preserve the parties’ integrity, legal and financial well-being, and ability to cooperate after the divorce in matters involving children and mutual financial interests. By providing a process for resolving emotional as well as legal and financial issues, Collaborative offers a process to alleviate the need for ever going back to court on contempt and modification issues – a common. little-recognized, and expensive pratfall of litigated divorce.
Collaborative is designed to help families dissolve marriages or revise custody and support agreements while minimizing pain and destructiveness. It is a team approach in which the spouses are two members of a team along with specially-trained support professionals. While a team approach may at first blush seem unnecessarily complicated, it uses the skills and knowledge of the professionals who are best at what they do, rather than relying on a lawyer to be an emotional counselor, a financial analyst, a child welfare specialist, and an attorney. It has the additional advantage of often lowering costs, because lawyers’ fees are typically higher than those of the other professionals. You use only the resources you need – but all the resources you need are there waiting for you.
In the Collaborative process, the parties agree up-front in writing not to go to court (except to have the judge issue the final Divorce Decree). They also agree that, in the event they don’t reach resolution, their lawyers and other team members must withdraw from representing them. Once they start the process, this creates a very strong incentive for the spouses to reach agreement. But the team leads the way, guiding the parties to reach a fair, mutually agreeable, and workable resolution of their issues. Perhaps most importantly, the parties themselves learn how to work cooperatively with each other to resolve their differences, creating a framework for resolving future disputes that helps them avoid ever having to resort to the courts.
The Collaborative process has been used successfully to dissolve marriages in most major metropolitan areas in the United States and in 20 countries around the world. Reports are uniform in showing that marriages dissolved through the Collaborative process are less emotionally painful, more respectful, less costly, and more likely to prevent returns to court due to new issues arising between the parties.
In the Collaborative process, the parties can use the services not only of specially-trained lawyers, but of these other professionals as well:
- Divorce coaches, who are mental health professionals specializing in divorce issues
- A child specialist, who is a mental health professional specializing in children’s issues
- A financial neutral, who is a specially-trained financial advisor who collects all the parties’ financial information and clearly sets out their options, the tax ramifications, and future planning, such as for college, retirement, and estate purposes.
All Collaborative professionals are trained to provide help rather than take sides. The process involves a series of meetings between the parties and various members of the team, depending on the parties’ needs. In this way, the parties have the benefit of the best advice and assistance available – from professionals who are not only experienced in their fields, but specially trained to help pave the way to a respectful and successful resolution of the issues.