Our web site includes a link to a directory of our members, each of whom has completed at least 12 hours of collaborative law training and annual 6 hour refresher training.
Collaborative Law is a voluntary process. Frequently, one person will be interested in using Collaborative Law and will talk to the other person about this option. Alternatively, the collaborative lawyer of one of the clients will contact the other (if he or she is unrepresented by an attorney) and explain the collaborative law process and provide that person with a list of local collaborative lawyers to contact. Other times, the collaborative lawyer will contact the other party's attorney and explore whether that attorney and his or her client is interested in using collaborative law to settle the dispute.
Collaborative lawyers have an attorney-client retainer agreement that confirms their collaborative law arrangement, including a promise to try in good faith to resolve the dispute without resort to litigation, and that if the matter goes to court the attorneys for both sides will be disqualified from any further participation.
Once clients and their attorneys agree to use Collaborative Law, the attorneys will confer and arrange a meeting when the Collaborative Participation Agreement will be openly agreed to and signed. At this initial meeting (called a "four-way"), any issues requiring immediate attention will be discussed. If there is specific information or documents that one person needs from the other in order to engage in meaningful discussion and negotiations, then agreements on information sharing will be made.
Afterwards, each client and attorney will develop a list of issues they believe need to be addressed in order to reach a settlement of the dispute. The attorneys will share their respective lists and develop the agendas which will guide discussions at subsequent meetings. In a series of two, three or more meetings, the clients and their attorneys will discuss and negotiate the issues which underlie the dispute. Using collaborative and mediation skills, attorneys assist both the clients in their communications and negotiations while at the same time providing their clients with legal advice and guidance. The four-way meeting process is designed to ensure that the interests of the clients are respectfully addressed so that upon settlement, the agreement reached recognizes those interests, is acceptable and lasting.
NOTE: There are times when the Collaborative Law process does not succeed when one party is not willing or able to listen and negotiate in good faith, for instance. In those cases, the clients will need to retain new attorneys in order to litigate the case.
There are several reasons:
If you have children together, your connection will not be severed. Collaborative Law is a excellent option because it offers a way to resolve necessary matters without irrevocably damaging the relationship with the other parent.
The Collaborative Law process provides a safe and structured environment for people to communicate and negotiate with each other while represented by lawyers whose interest is in assisting their clients towards resolution. The process itself is designed to encourage creative problem-solving. Often when a dispute is settled using Collaborative Law, the agreement is better matched to the needs of the clients than the result they would have received from the traditional litigation model.
The entire process is confidential. In the traditional litigation model, all of your private affairs are part of a public record for anyone to read.
Timing is in Your Control
Once a case is filed in court, timelines and deadlines are automatically imposed. In the Collaborative Law model, the clients control timing. Also, Collaborative Law is designed to avoid most of the problems usually associated with litigation such as the high cost and time-consuming nature of trial preparation, the wide-ranging and often invasive discovery into one's personal life or business activities, and the adversarial, hardball approach that fosters greater animosity between clients.
For the Collaborative Law process to work, both clients must be willing to resolve the dispute and to work toward that end, which includes fully disclosing all relevant information. If there has been physical or substance abuse or criminal activity, Collaborative Law may not be an appropriate choice. Please consult with an attorney trained in Collaborative Law to determine what is appropriate in your situation.
Generally Collaborative Law cases cost less than full litigation, but each case is different and there can be no guarantees. Collaborative Law cases commonly do settle and therefore the clients aren't spending money on court proceedings. Collaborative groups around the country report that the total fees paid by divorcing clients in collaborative family law cases are less on average than the fees they would pay if they were involved in the court process.