It is a relatively new process to resolve family law matters out of court. The parties and their attorneys in a family law case agree to work together or “collaborate” to create a customized solution to a family law matter, usually a divorce. The parties and attorneys agree from the beginning to not go to court to resolve issues. Instead, they have a series of short meetings where information is gathered and shared, issues are analyzed and solutions are created. The parties share expenses by jointly hiring experts, as needed. The sessions are private and the result usually is an agreement that meets the special needs of the parties while preserving a relationship between the parties. The parties control the timing and terms of the agreement.
Team Work: We normally use a team of professionals to work with our clients. We bring in a neutral mental health professional (MHP) who acts as a communications facilitator. In plain English, we bring in a counselor who helps the parties be able to get along, listen and communicate effectively so that we can reach agreements. We also use a neutral financial professional (FP) who manages the information on the financial issues. The FP directs and supervises the parties in gathering and organizing the financial records needed to work out financial issues.
Hidden Benefit: The neutral professionals save the clients money by working effectively with them off-line, without the attorneys present, to do a lot of the preliminary work. It's much cheaper to pay one neutral in place of two attorneys to do the preliminary work.
Withdrawal: In the event that the Collaborative process breaks down and an agreement cannot be reached, the attorneys and neutrals are required to withdraw. The parties then have 30 days to hire new counsel before they can go to court. This withdrawal requirement, and the additional cost involved for the parties, is a great incentive for the parties to work hard and not give up at the first signs of difficulty. It is one of the biggest reasons for the success of the process.
A copy of a standard Participation Agreement, which is signed by both parties and acknowledged by the attorneys, is available on request.