1. What is Collaborative Law or Collaborative Divorce?
The collaborative law model uses a cooperative approach to help couples and their families resolve the issues that arise in the termination of a marriage. Through this model, the parties are able to control the decision making, timing and costs of the process.
2. How does the Collaborative Process work?
Initially, the parties are required to sign an agreement to participate in the collaborative divorce process which removes the threat of litigation. The parties also agree from the outset to voluntarily fully share all information, financial or otherwise. The core of the process is the meetings which are attended by the parties and their attorneys and other collaborative professionals, if necessary. It is at these meetings where the negotiation takes place and the parties set the agenda for the following meeting.
3. What is the goal of the Collaborative Process?
The goal is to provide parties and their attorneys a structured, non-adversarial process to deal with the issues relating to the termination of their marriage.
4. What happens if one or both parties refuse to abide by the full disclosure requirement or are dishonest?
It is possible that this could happen but because the parties must fully invest themselves in the process the percentages are lower than in the cases involving litigation. Such conduct frequently occurs in litigation.
5. Why is the Collaborative Process effective in divorce cases?
Collaborative attorneys receive training in the art of principled negotiation which is the bedrock of the collaborative process. The cases are approached with a different mind-set and skill than those required for litigation. The process enables the parties to directly participate in a dignified, respectful and creative process and the attorneys strive to maintain this atmosphere. This is able to be accomplished because there is no threat of litigation or the anxiety that accompanies it.
6. Can a party quit during the Collaborative Process?
The participation agreement does not prevent a party from quitting the process. However, the participation agreement does require that, if a party quits, they have to hire new attorneys. Further, unless there is an emergency, the agreement requires a 30 day “cooling off period” before any Court hearing in order to allow the other party to obtain a new attorney.
7. I have heard that most cases settle without a trial anyway. How is the Collaborative Process different?
The main difference is between negotiations during the course of litigation versus negotiations in the non-adversarial atmosphere of four-way meetings without the threat of litigation or court proceedings looming. Settlements reached under the stress of litigation and the pressure of a trial generally feel “forced” and there is a great amount of resentment by the parties towards each other, the attorneys and the system. Additionally, by the time the case is settled “on the courthouse steps” the parties will have spent much more time and money working in a system that causes emotional
harm to the family.
8. Why must one party’s attorney resign if the other side withdraws from the Collaborative Process?
The requirement that all attorneys be disqualified if the case ends up in court serves to ensure that they are totally and exclusively motivated to make the collaborative process succeed. This is also an incentive for the parties to be equally and fully invested in the problem solving.