Collaborative Divorce Law
Using a Collaborative Law Practice
Collaborative Law Practice is quite different from the formalities of public court proceedings in which each party hires a separate professional and information, much of it personal, is preserved in a court record.
In the traditional court process, dueling lawyers frequently fight in a courtroom for a decision most favorable for their client. This further fractures the fragile relationship between the parties.
Collaborative Law Practice gives each party and their lawyers the option to work together in a team with other professionals. Working in collaboration promotes the open exchange and expression of priorities and expectations, making it possible to reach workable solutions for all parties. In this way, Collaborative Law Practice encourages cooperation, preserving respect, and the longevity of relationships.
Collaborative Law Practice:
- Creates an environment in which parties can openly talk about their concerns in private and identify issues most important to them
- Allows the parties to resolve concerns in one place instead of the potential for multiple court proceedings in front of different decision-makers over weeks, months, and sometimes years
- Enables parties to maintain control of the process and decisions; not a judge or jury
- Minimizes court-time, thereby reducing fees and avoiding scheduling conflicts with court dates
Collaborative Law Practice also differs from mediation and other forms of dispute resolution in that the parties and their lawyers pledge through a formal written contract:
- Not to use the courts to resolve the legal dispute
- That each lawyer must withdraw as legal counsel along with any other Collaborative Law Team member if the case is taken to court for a decision
- To truthfully and voluntarily exchange documents and information that relate to the conflict
- To the confidentiality of information that is shared and disclosed during collaboration
- To have the support and guidance of an independent interdisciplinary team of professionals, the Collaborative Law Team, to assist as problem-solvers, not as adversaries
Advantages to Collaborative Law
It resolves the issues outside of the adversarial proceedings and many find the process allows the parties to maintain a healthier relationship during and after the case.
The negotiations can occur prior to the filing of any pleadings with the court, allowing parties to focus on the issues while avoiding a court process.
You and your spouse together have complete control over the manner and timetable in which the agreement is reached.
Collaborative law is also different from mediation in that you have an attorney involved in the entire process who serves as your advocate. In mediation, the attorney is not present at the mediation meeting but can be available as a coach to the mediation participant in preparing for mediation sessions and reviewing proposed agreements. The mediator is a neutral, does not advocate for or seek to advance either party’s interest.
The requirement that all lawyers be disqualified in the event of a breakdown guarantees that all participating counsel will be totally and exclusively motivated to make the process succeed. Thus, all participants are equally and fully invested in finding the solution.
Many people find that the costs involved, both in time and money, in the collaborative process to be less than that in litigation.
Disadvantages to Collaborative Law
As with all the alternatives to litigation, the financial disclosures made by your spouse will not be subject to the same standard for falsity or omissions as in litigation.
There is no ability to compel discovery of documents and other information from the other party or third parties.
You will lose the financial protections and right to seek court orders in litigation as described later on.
The requirement that the lawyers withdraw from representation in the event of a breakdown will mean that if the process is unsuccessful, you must retain new counsel and pay additional fees.
There is no specific date for determining equitable distribution of assets, which would be available to you in litigation.
Child Support, Spousal Support and Alimony and the Collaborative Law Process
The Collaborative Law Process also prioritizes your children’s needs in reaching agreements on child support. Support Guidelines and other relevant factors unique to the family are considered. Parents, along with their Collaborative Law Team, work together to find a creative solution that meets the children’s financial and emotional needs, fostering more successful co-parenting relationships.
In the Collaborative Law Process, the spouses and their Collaborative Lawyers can choose to work with a Financial Specialist so that, as a Collaborative Law Team, they can craft a financial solution that, to the satisfaction of each spouse, incorporates various components of a financial settlement such as the spousal support, alimony, and, if applicable, child support.
In the Collaborative Law Process, spouses, their Collaborative Lawyers, and Financial Specialists work together in a respectful, private setting to fashion a resolution that considers the financial needs of each spouse in terms of spousal support and alimony.
If one parent is self-employed, it may be necessary to obtain and review specific financial documents that are not volunteered, resulting in time-consuming and costly discovery processes. By choosing the Collaborative Law Process, the parties and their Collaborative Lawyers can work together in a timely and cost-efficient manner to find a support amount that addresses the children’s financial needs and preserves the parental relationship.
Parenting Plans and Child Custody Plans and the Collaborative Law Process
Collaborative Law Professionals prefer not to think of matters involving parents and children as “custody”, but rather shared access and co-parenting. Ultimately, parents truly want what is best for their children. Yet, some people have differing views about what is “best.”
If you and the other parent of your children decide to separate or divorce, our Collaborative Lawyers and neutral Child Specialists recognize that every family is different and has unique circumstances. Each family’s distinct situation needs to be considered in developing custody arrangements and parenting plans or schedules that reflect children’s needs.
For instance, a child’s extra-curricular activities, the distance between each parent’s home, a parent’s work and travel schedule, and where a child attends pre-school/daycare or school are all factors to consider when crafting a parenting agreement.
Working together with your Collaborative Lawyer and neutral Child Specialist will enable you to reach an agreement that reflects your concerns and prioritizes your children’s needs and interests.
Equitable Distribution and Collaborative Law Process
In the Collaborative Law Process, the division of assets and liabilities is determined not by legal definitions or factors, but by the goals and needs of the particular family.
The Collaborative Lawyer advises their client about important legal information they need to consider in making decisions.
The neutral financial specialist will help you and your spouse gather the important financial information, evaluate tax implications of settlement options, assess the impact of these options on your near- and long-term financial health, and help you and your spouse achieve a desired financial settlement.
If emotions run high, if communication with your spouse has and continues to be difficult, the collaborative coach can help you and your spouse manage the emotionality and develop more productive communication. Focus is on desired outcomes and resolving issues.
The final result of the Collaborative Law Process is a thoughtful review of many options. The economic concerns of all family members are considered in reaching a financial agreement.
If you are interested in the Collaborative Law Process, I can help.
Is Collaborative Law Right for You?
Ending a long-term relationship is a deeply personal and sensitive matter that most people prefer to go through in private. Collaborative Law Practice provides a private place, outside the court system, in which you can have respectful conversations with your spouse or partner when a relationship ends, or with a family member in matters related to estate issues or a family business, to reach solutions that consider the needs of everyone affected. Court proceedings can be emotionally destructive and financially expensive with parties left powerless in determining a final solution.
If you are looking for something different and find any of the following valuable for you, Collaborative Law Practice may be what you are looking for:
- I want to preserve a relationship with the other party.
- I want to maintain the privacy and confidentiality of my family.
- I wish to minimize the emotional and financial costs for my family and me.
- I choose to avoid having the court make decisions.
- I choose to work together with my spouse/partner/family member to find creative solutions that will meet each of our needs.
- I believe that it is important to move past current frustrations, pain and anger and plan for the future.
- I choose to be part of the planning process in reaching a resolution; not one imposed upon me by the court.
Want to Know More?
If you are interested in a consultation to discuss the options available to resolve your divorce, custody issues, support, or equitable distribution issues, please contact me and I can help you investigate your options. Call me, Lenore M.J. Myers, at 215-470-3121 or email me at email@example.com.