Collaborative Law and the Divorce Lawyer

Should you choose to participate in the Collaborative Divorce model to reach a divorce settlement, you and your spouse will each have your own lawyer. Each of you will have a shared commitment to avoid litigation and to use cooperative, open strategies to resolve divorce related issues.

Where appropriate, Collaborative Divorce is a multi-disciplinary process where not only attorneys but a divorce coach, a child specialist and a joint financial planner may be involved as part of the collaborative team. It is the role of the coach to support the parties in what can be the stressful divorce process, as well as to aid with communication skills for settlement discussions with the children. The child specialist may interview the children, provide a neutral forum for them to talk about what is on their mind and to assess various parenting options. The financial specialist assists the attorneys in reviewing and analyzing the parties’ financial picture and helping plan for the future.

The work of these professionals is often of greater benefit to the parties than were the attorneys to do the same tasks. Their hourly rate is lower and they are specialists in their respective fields, so the lawyer does not need to undertake the work they perform in the collaborative model.

The collaborative divorce process primarily uses discussions and four-way conferences (attorneys and clients) for purposes of settling the issues. Each attorney and each client agree in writing to adhere to the principles, honesty and mutual respect for the collaborative profess. Both parties and their clients commit themselves to resolving differences justly and equitably without resort or thereat of litigation. Collaborative divorce uses informal discovery through voluntary disclosure and exchange of needed information. This is a mandatory requirement of the process.

The parties are often assigned tasks of gathering information, creating budgets for monthly expenses and obtaining needed information. They agree to proceed in good faith and to make their best effort to arrive at solutions that address both parties’ fundamental interests, values, needs and priorities. If necessary the parties commit to compromise in order to reach a settlement of all the issues that is acceptable to both parties.

In the event the case cannot be settled in the collaborative process, and for whatever reason one or both parties wish to litigate the case in court, it has been agreed beforehand that the attorneys and the other collaborative professionals must terminate their services, so the parties can obtain new litigation counsel. While this may be seen as a risk of duplication of services, more often it serves as an incentive for the parties and the attorneys to go the extra distance in creatively pursuing settlement resolution. The client does not want to start over and the lawyer does not want to leave the case; thus the additional effort to move beyond “see you in court.”