What is Collaborative Law?

Collaborative Law is a process of resolving divorce and other legal disputes without litigation or a court trial, using cooperation and collaboration rather than adversarial techniques.

Why is Collaborative Law considered to be a creative process for divorcing partners?

The Collaborative Law process is an innovative approach to divorce, established to address the dysfunction found by many clients involved in typical adversarial divorce litigation. Just like in any other legal process, no one can promise that using the Collaborative Law process will definitely result in an agreement on all issues of your divorce. However, Collaborative Law has been highly successful across the United States and Canada, and is rapidly spreading.

The process of collaboration is infused with opportunities to "think outside the box" and allows divorcing couples the privacy, safety and freedom to speak their mind, have their voice and reach their unique best resolution. Trained attorneys, while present and involved in every aspect of the process to provide assistance and advice to their clients, empower their clients to reach their own unique resolution. Other team professionals are available to provide coaching for the parties and expert analysis and advice to the parties on financial and child related matters.

What are four-way party conferences?

These are meetings with each party and each party's attorney present where the parties discuss and determine the elements of their unique resolution. The planning of these meetings is flexible and designed to meet the circumstances and the needs of the parties, and can include party coaches, financial experts and child specialists as appropriate.

What if we can't reach an agreement?

Although the Collaborative Law process is designed to reach an agreement, for reasons personal to the parties sometimes an agreement is not reached in this process. At the beginning of the Collaborative Law process the parties and the attorneys sign an agreement that the attorneys who represent the parties in the Collaborative Law process will not represent the parties in litigation or at trial. Thus, if an agreement is not reached in this process, the parties must hire other attorneys to represent them in litigation and trial.

This commitment to collaboration and agreement about representation provides strong motivation not to give up on the settlement process. Parties are motivated to work through road blocks to eventually achieve workable solutions. The team of CLGSA professionals working with the parties assist in breaking through impasse and reaching creative solutions.

What are advantages of Collaborative Law?

Each party who uses the Collaborative Law process reports advantages personal to their life and circumstances. Some of these include: professional assistance from trained counsel from the beginning of divorce discussions; the Collaborative Law professional team concept and availability of trained child specialists, coaches and financial experts;

  • the parties and attorneys are focused on reaching settlement throughout the process, without wasting time and money on posturing by counsel or threats by parties in attempts to intimidate or gain advantage;
  • clients, not attorneys or judges, are in control of the process and the outcome;
  • parties retain dignity and respect through the use of language that is not accusatory, blame-oriented, critical or judgmental;
  • the focus is on finding creative solutions and problem solving rather than on replaying the past issues, facts or problems of the marriage;
  • attorneys facilitate settlement rather than encourage lengthy, costly litigation;
  • the process is private and confidential;
  • the parties' attorneys are available during the discussions and settlement negotiations to provide advice and counsel;
  • the process itself promotes effective communication between the parties which is beneficial to the parties and their children throughout the process and in the future.

How is a Collaborative Law case different than a conventional case that is eventually settled?

There is a significant difference between a settlement negotiated during the conventional litigation process and a settlement reached through the Collaborative Law process which is committed to reaching a settlement from the beginning. Many conventional "litigated" family law matters settle figuratively, if not literally, "on the courthouse steps." By that time a great deal of money has been spent, and a lot of emotional damage may have been caused. Sometimes neither party has had the chance to fully participate in the settlement decision, and is told by his or her attorney that the risks of trial are too great, that the settlement is necessary, or the party cannot afford further litigation or trial. Often these settlements are reached under conditions of considerable tension and anxiety.

The Collaborative Law process and the settlement reached through this process is markedly different. The process is structured from day one to make it possible for creative, respectful collective problem-solving to happen. It is often quicker, less costly, more creative, more individualized, less stressful, and overall far more satisfying in its results than what occurs in most conventional settlement negotiations.

What is an "Agreement to the Principles and Guidelines of Collaborative Law"?

This is the technical name of the agreement signed by the parties and attorneys before beginning the Collaborative Law process. Click here to view the Agreement.

I'm convinced. How do I persuade my spouse to use the Collaborative Law process?

Give your spouse a brochure or other information about Collaborative Law. Suggest that he or she have an initial interview with one of the lawyers in the Collaborative Law Group of Southern Arizona. Many of the CLGSA attorneys offer free or reduced cost one-half hour consultations to discuss the Collaborative Law process with prospective clients.

What distinguishes Collaborative Law from Mediation?

Many divorcing couples are confused about the differences between mediation and Collaborative Law.

In mediation, the parties are not represented by attorneys and meet with one person who acts as a mediator in attempting to reach a compromise agreement. Even if the mediator is also an attorney, the mediator cannot give legal advice to either party during the mediation. In some mediated cases where parties ask their attorneys to review the agreement after the mediation, the agreement falls apart because the attorney advises the party about legal rights and issues the party did not know about during the mediation process.

With the Collaborative Law process, the parties are directly represented by counsel who give advice and counsel to the parties during the negotiations, and are committed to assisting the parties reach their own agreement.

In addition, the Collaborative Law process often involves other professional collaborative team members, such as party coaches, financial experts and child specialists who provide advice and consultation to the parties.

What cases are not suitable for Collaborative Law?

Cases involving parties whose persistent emotional tenor prevents their capacity to fully engage in the collaborative process or parties who are unwilling to disclose all relevant information are not good candidates for the Collaborative Law process.

Cases where one of the parties will not hire an attorney trained in the Collaborative Law process and/or will not agree to the Principles and Guidelines of Collaborative Law cannot use the Collaborative Law process.

The Collaborative Law process is appropriate for most cases. Your attorney will help you determine which divorce process is right for you.


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