Frequently Asked Questions

Simply click on a frequently asked question below to view its answer. For more information and answers to your questions about collaborative law, Contact us here.

How is collaborative practice different from litigation?

The essential difference is that in collaborative practice the parties sign a participation agreement in which they commit to not use litigation to resolve their case. There is full disclosure of all financial and other relevant information in a transparent and cooperative process. The parties are represented by their individual attorneys and a team is formed to include a neutral financial expert and a mental health professional/facilitator who help move the process forward. Team members are generally trained in interest-based negotiation techniques and other aspects of mediation. Collaborative practice is an alternative dispute resolution method that is respectful of the desire to maintain relationships after the divorce. Collaborative practice is predicated on the pledge not to litigate, the mandatory withdrawal of the attorneys and the other team professionals in the unusual situation where the case does not settle, and a commitment to deal with the other party honestly and with respect to work towards shared goals in reaching an agreement.

What is the collaborative team?

Each of the parties is represented by their own collaboratively trained attorney. In addition there are neutral, collaboratively trained, financial and neutral mental health professionals as part of the team. The neutral financial person helps the family determine a thorough understanding of their assets and liabilities, values businesses, calculates spousal and child support, and assists in financial planning. The mental health professional is a facilitator of the team meeting and helps in the creation of a parenting plan in children with families. Additionally the MHP addresses the inevitable emotions which arise during dissolution of marriage and other family law matters.

What is the difference between collaborative practice and mediation?

Lawyers are not always present during mediation but the parties are always represented by attorneys during collaborative practice. Mediation often involves lengthy, if not marathon sessions, which are stressful and fatiguing. In contrast collaborative team meetings are set up with start and stop times, with a planned agenda, which help create a feeling of safety, certainty and productivity. Team meetings are scheduled at regular intervals to work through the process at a comfortable pace. This allows for the team to cooperatively move towards settlement. Commonly attorneys and the neutral financial and mental health team members are trained in mediation techniques including interest-based negotiation. Mediation takes place in the context of litigation whereas with collaborative practice the parties sign a participation agreement in which they commit not to litigate.

Is a collaborative divorce faster than litigation?

In collaborative practice there is no waiting for court dates. The team, not crowded court schedules, determines when each meeting will take place. Given that the process is predicated on full disclosure and cooperation, the process of discovery, or information gathering, is generally more expedient. Generally a litigated case takes longer to move from start to finish than a collaborative practice case.

Can collaborative practice be used in family law matters beside divorce?

Collaborative practice can be used in other contexts besides dissolution of marriage. It is appropriate in developing pre- and postnuptial agreements, paternity cases, dissolution of civil agreement and same-sex partner relationships and post-dissolution modifications.

How does collaborative practice minimize hostility?

Collaborative practice is based on full disclosure and transparency in a safe and private environment. Collaborative professionals are trained in interest-based negotiation to move past positional reasoning towards agreements. The goal of collaborative practice is to reduce conflict during the process and afterwards, making co-parenting easier in families with children. In collaborative practice there is a commitment to respect each other?s shared goals and to follow a code of conduct. Anger, loss and grief are a natural part of divorce. Collaborative practice allows clients to receive support and guidance to manage these emotions which can exacerbate the conflict and derail settlement attempts in traditional divorce.

How do I know if collaborative practice is right for me?

Collaborative practice is for couples who wish to end their marriage with a tone of respect, fairness, honesty and integrity. It allows for much more control over the decision-making than happens in a court situation where major decisions are left to a trier of fact. Collaborative law generally is not appropriate process in those situations where one individual is unable or unwilling to participate in conferences in which the other spouse is present. There are situations in which collaborative practices can be employed even where there has been a history of domestic violence as long as appropriate assessment and safety precautions are put in place.

How does the cost of a collaborative divorce compare to the cost of more traditional litigation?

Litigation is generally the most expensive way to dissolve a marriage. There is an expensive discovery process that can involve subpoenas to banks, credit card statements, depositions and much more. Then there are the motions and court appearances to obtain the documents that were not produced. There are usually numerous pleadings filed in the court which require responses by the opposing attorney and sometimes court appearances. There is often considerable downtime, waiting in the court hallways for a case to be heard or travel time to court. With collaborative practice, each of the professionals involved receives a retainer and future services are billed against them. The commitment to fairness and cooperation saves vast amount of money by avoiding motions and court appearances. The use and efficiency of expert neutrals, rather than adversarial experts, saves monies and the overall costs at the end of the process are generally less in collaborative practice.

How is the collaborative approach different from settlement negotiations in traditional litigated divorce?

In the collaborative process all parties agree to an open and honest exchange of financial and other information with the goal of a fair resolution. Although the parties are represented and supported by their own attorneys, the team works cooperatively with each other. Given that there is less conflict and animosity during collaboration, children are insulated from the toxicity associated with litigation. In a collaborative approach the parties agree to the use of one neutral financial expert, which reduces the cost of dueling forensic accountants and business evaluators. Experts in child development and family relationships are used in the development of parenting plans and in other discussion and agreements regarding children. The tone of a collaborative divorce is one of respect, cooperation and resolution of differences.

Will I be required to disclose my financial information?

Both spouses/partners must provide full disclosure of all financial information. They will be assisted in this by their respective attorneys and the neutral financial expert. In the collaborative process both parties sign binding agreements that they will be open and honest in providing this material. The participation agreement requires the attorneys withdraw if their clients are not fully compliant with this.

Will my rights be protected in a collaborative divorce as well as they are in traditional litigation?

The parties sign a letter of engagement with their respective attorneys. They are fully represented in the collaborative process just as they are in litigation. The attorneys remain the advocates of their clients and they advance their client?s interests in negotiations but with a commitment to work towards mutually agreeable solutions.

What if my spouse does not have a lawyer?

Talk with your spouse about the benefits of collaboration over litigation. Provide your spouse with resources to learn more about collaboration such as this website and the website of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals. Resources for families, with appropriate links, can be seen on the resources tab on this website. The names of collaboratively trained professionals can be found on the directory tab on this website. It is important for the attorneys to be trained in the collaborative process. This allows for the trust associated with knowing that the other attorney on the team is also committed to full disclosure and will insist on his client being honest and forthright.