Collaborative law is an interest-based approach. Clients identify what is important now and in the future, and those priorities become an important basis for mutually acceptable agreements. In collaborative law, clients receive the support that is tailored to the unique legal, financial, and emotional aspects of their case. The collaborative team is typically made up of two attorneys, a certified divorce financial analyst, and a communication coach. Other professionals with subject matter expertise (child specialists, mortgage specialists, mediators, business valuators) may also be team members.
Although there is no way to remove all pain from divorce, there is a new option available to you for how to handle your divorce that can keep conflict to a minimum, and keep the divorce transition constructive, private, respectful and creative. This remarkably powerful and civilized approach to divorce, which is known as Collaborative Practice (including Collaborative Law and interdisciplinary Collaborative Divorce), is what the nine members of the San Francisco Bay Area Collaborative Practice Group offer. By choosing Collaborative Practice, instead of costly court-based legal battles, you and your spouse can keep control over the divorce process and outcomes, with the help of specially trained professional advisors who will guide you toward solutions tailored specifically to your family’s unique situation. Instead of emotionally scarring battles over custody, you and your spouse and collaborative professional advisors keep the needs of your children paramount, enhancing the prospects for healthy outcomes for all members of the family. For more about our group, click on “about us”.
Divorce may be inevitable, but the way you divorce isn’t.
Going through a divorce doesn’t automatically mean having to endure the turmoil that is often associated with it. You now have another choice: Collaborative Practice, which includes the Collaborative Law and Collaborative Divorce models. Developed as an alternative to “divorce as usual”, Collaborative Practice offers couples a humane and solutions-based approach to ending a relationship. Collaborative Practice differs from conventional divorce in three important respects:
- The parties pledge in writing not to go to court.
- Face-to-face discussions between the spouses and their lawyers lead to an agreement.
- A respectful, problem-solving approach, often with the assistance of trained financial experts, child specialists and divorce coaches, replaces the often adversarial process of conventional divorce.
How it works.
Many of our members have assumed prominent roles in bringing Collaborative Practice to national and international awareness through writing, training, and speaking, and through leadership positions in the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals. (See www.collaborativepractice.com.) All of our members share a deep commitment to excellence in collaborative conflict resolution, and all are highly trained and experienced in providing the highest quality collaborative conflict resolution services to divorcing clients. Although each of us in the group practices separately and is entirely independent of the other members, we share a high level of trust in one another’s integrity and are committed to working together effectively to support our respective clients in reaching agreements that will last. We meet regularly to share experiences about how to serve our clients better, to incorporate new understandings from emerging research in effective collaborative conflict resolution techniques, and to mentor one another when challenging problems arise in our collaborative cases. We are all trained in the interdisciplinary Collaborative Divorce model and where appropriate, we can help our clients select professional teams of helpers that include not only lawyers but also highly trained and experienced Collaborative Divorce coaches and financial advisors. If you and your spouse both select collaborative lawyers to help with your divorce who are highly experienced leaders in their field, who trust one another, and who have a history of working together collegially, you can greatly enhance your prospects for moving respectfully, amicably, and civilly through the divorce process to a resolution that is custom-tailored to fit your unique needs and values. All members of the San Francisco Bay Area Collaborative Practice Group meet that description.
A collaborative participation agreement is entered into at the onset of a case that outlines how the process will proceed and typically includes the following elements:
- There will be no court intervention and collaborative professionals may not appear in court except to enter agreed documents
- What happens in the collaborative process is confidential
- All relevant information will be shared
Collaborative Law operates from the perspective that most people want to move through family law matters as quickly and efficiently as possible. Most people do not want to harm their spouse or children, they just want to change their situation from the way it is to something they believe will work better. Collaborative Law eliminates much of the strategic game playing that often accompanies the litigation model, as well as the ill will that is created when one person has to win and the other has to lose. In the unlikely event that clients are not able to settle their cases using the Collaborative Law model, litigation attorneys can still take the case to court.
Collaborative Law emphasizes special training so that its practitioners can expertly assist their clients to:
- resolve family law disputes without going to court or threatening to go to court
- ensure full and complete disclosure of all important information
- negotiate in a principled, dignified and respectful manner
- explore as many options for settlement as possible
- reach creative resolutions that best meet the goals and priorities of both parties
Strengths of a Collaborated Divorce
- No court or threat of court for contested issues
- Each spouse has legal representation and advice
- Spouses are free to evaluate creative solutions
- Formal discovery is superseded by open sharing of all relevant facts
- All experts are neutral
- Sessions are private, scheduled at times that are convenient for everyone, and go at a comfortable pace
- Specially-trained professionals help the process be efficient and productive
- Everyone involved has a built-in financial incentive to settle the case
Weaknesses of a Collaborated Divorce
- No one can force another person to participate in the Collaborative Law process or to act in good faith
- Clients with serious mental health issues or unaddressed chemical addiction may not be capable of participating in Collaborative Law to the extent necessary to reach a settlement using this model
- Clients must change lawyers if they can’t settle through Collaborative Law
- Collaborative Law cases can be more expensive than other dispute-resolution models