Collaborative Law is a structured process designed to help divorcing spouses reach an agreement with the help of legal, financial and mental health professionals.
In the Collaborative Law Process each of the parties is represented by an attorney who serves as a divorce coach. The attorneys do not participate in an adversarial manner; their role is to give advice, guidance and information to their client and to move the parties toward an agreement that resolves all the issues between them.
The attorneys’ roles in the Collaborative Law Process are completely different than the traditional roles within the adversarial system. In essence the Collaborative Law Process is the opposite of litigation. In the Collaborative Law Process, the process consists of one extended settlement conference. The attorneys and the parties meet on multiple occasions, exchange information, discuss possible solutions, determine what additional information and resources may be needed and work toward an agreement. Litigation is a last resort and is discouraged. The rules governing the collaborative process, whether put in place by statute or by agreement, almost universally require that the attorneys involved in the collaborative process not be participants in any ensuing litigation if the settlement process breaks down. In the Collaborative Law Process, the end goal is an agreement, and a trial is an alternative if that goal cannot ultimately be reached.
This is completely different from litigation where the ultimate end is a trial where an impartial third party imposes a decision, and settlement negotiations are an alternative to avoid the trial.
Collaborative Law is a wonderful option in situations where the parties are committed to resolving their disputes by agreement. The advantages of the Collaborative Law Process are that it has more structure than informal negotiations between the spouses or mediation, it provides professional guidance to the parties and it can extend over a longer period of time. As a result, the Collaborative Law Process can produce an agreement when other methods fail and often the agreement is more complete, detailed and committed to by the parties.