Collaborative Law: What is it? Is it the right process for you?

By: Anne Brockman

If you and your spouse are considering a divorce, you might be fearing constant court litigation, fighting, and never ending confusion. Despite trying to settle outside of the courtroom, some divorce proceedings do require litigation and extensive court proceedings. However, many cases can settle completely without stepping foot in a courtroom through a process called “Collaborative Law.”

The Collaborative Law process was founded by several family law attorneys who were searching for a more amicable approach to divorce cases and a process that was fair to both parties involved. The heart of the Collaborative Law method is to assist parties in reaching a resolution in an open, reasoned, and reassuring atmosphere on all issues pertaining to their divorce, including property and child custody issues.

Here are a Few Highlights of the Collaborative Divorce Process:
1. In the beginning of a Collaborative Law divorce case, each party signs an agreement stating that they promise to conduct themselves in good faith, and in full cooperation towards one another and towards nonparty participants.
2. If either party in a Collaborative Law divorce case decides to abandon the process and pursue formal litigation, then both collaborative law attorneys must withdraw from the case and discontinue their representation of the client. Different attorneys would have to be hired if one or both of the collaborative law clients decide to pursue litigation.
3. Collaborative Law meetings occur with all parties present (including both collaborative law attorneys) in a neutral setting. This is where the negotiation process begins. Both sides are encouraged to speak openly in order to reach an agreement. By having all parties present during meetings and working towards a common goal, all parties are able to remain on the same page. In addition, the parties, along with their attorneys, can choose to hire “neutrals” to help assist in the process. The most common are a financial neutral and a family neutral.
4. There are numerous benefits to the Collaborative Law process, including less stress on the parties and the parties’ children (if children are involved). It can also, in some cases, be a less expensive alternative to traditional family court litigation as the process is generally shorter than cases that require litigation.

If you or your spouse are exploring your options for a divorce and think the Collaborative Law process would be a good fit for you, give our office a call! Melissa Doss is a certified Collaborative Law Attorney and would be more than happy to answer any questions you may have.