Answers To Common Questions
1. What is collaborative law or collaborative divorce?
The collaborative law model uses a cooperative approach to help couples and families resolve issues that arise in the termination of a marriage without going to court. 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 team meetings, which are attended by the parties, their attorneys, the neutral financial professional and neutral divorce coach. Discussions and negotiations take place during these meetings. Agendas are prepared in advance of each meeting so parties are prepared and surprises can be avoided.
3. What is the goal of the collaborative process?
The goal is to provide parties and their attorneys a safe, structured, non-adversarial process to deal with issues relating to the termination of their marriage. It allows the parties to begin to learn a different way to communicate with each other as they move forward in their separate and co-parenting roles ahead.
4. What happens if one or both parties refuse to abide by the full disclosure requirement or are dishonest?
This is always possible. But because the parties need to be fully invested in the process, it occurs much less frequently than in cases involving litigation, where hiding information or assets is a common problem.
5. Why is the collaborative process effective in divorce cases?
Cases are approached with a different mind-set. All of the professionals have the singular goal of assisting you to reach an agreement. The parties fully participate using their own voices, rather than having an attorney speak for them. You participate directly in a dignified, respectful and creative manner. The collaborative process creates a safe atmosphere by removing the threat of litigation and the anxiety that accompanies it.
6. Can a party quit during the collaborative process?
A participation agreement does not prohibit you from quitting. However, the participation agreement does require you to hire a new attorney if you quit. And the team professionals can refuse to disclose their information or communications made during the collaborative family law process.
Further, unless there is an emergency, the agreement requires a 30-day “cooling off period” before any court hearing to allow the other party to also 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 six collaborative team meetings without the threat of litigation or court proceedings looming.
Settlements reached under the stress of litigation are many times done at the last minute and generally feel forced. This can lead to resentment toward each other, the lawyers and the system. Additionally, by the time the case is settled “on the courthouse steps,” you may have spent much more time and money working in a system that causes emotional harm to the family. The collaborative family law process allows you to control the process and make decisions for you and your family and minimize the emotional harm.
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 a party terminates the process to head to 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 required to reach an agreement. This eliminates the threat of litigation while at the table in the collaborative process.
If this FAQ doesn’t answer all of your individual questions or you would like more information on how you start the collaborative process, please send us an email.