In many states, collaborative law is a relatively new creature, and it has caught on as a favored way to resolve divorce and family law cases. The ground rules for collaborative divorce are simple. Each party retains an attorney who is trained in collaborative law, and the parties agree to resolve all issues attendant to the divorce outside of the court system in a respectful, forthright and honorable manner.
Once the parties agree to those ground rules, they and their attorneys enter into a written participation agreement that binds them to resolution of the case by following collaborative principals and guidelines. Settlement of all issues connected with the divorce is the ultimate objective, because the participation agreement states that an attorney involved in the collaborative process is barred from representing his or her client if the collaborative process breaks down, and the case goes to the courts. Sometimes the collaborative couple assembles a team of collaborative professionals to assist them through the process. A team might consist of specialists in:
- Child custody
- Business valuation experts
The actual collaborative procedure is done through a series of non-adversarial meetings with the parties and their respective attorneys. The attorneys will focus their clients on their respective needs and interests. Depending on what is scheduled to be discussed at those meetings, appropriate team members might attend. After all matters have been fully agreed upon and settled, a judgment and marital settlement are prepared along with other required documents for entry by a judge.
With collaborative divorce, motions requiring the presence of an attorney are eliminated. The parties proceed at their own pace as opposed to the court’s convenience, and they walk away feeling heard, having participated in the collaborative process themselves.
The keys to the collaborative family law process are dignity, respect and honesty. Rather than participating in an emotional and legal tug of war and working against each other, everybody attendant to the process is committed to helping the parties go through one of the most difficult times in their lives.