1. What's the difference between collaborative practice and traditional divorce?
  2. Is this the same as mediation?
  3. How does collaborative practice actually work?
  4. How long does it take?
  5. How much does it cost?
  6. How do I know if it's right for us?
  7. How do I start?

What is the difference between a collaborative divorce and a traditional divorce?

In a traditional divorce, one spouse begins the process by filing a lawsuit against the other for divorce. Spouses going through a traditional divorce often view each other as adversaries, and their divorce can become a battleground. This can create or increase conflict and take a toll on the family, especially children.

A collaborative divorce is a non- combative process. Both spouses-and their lawyers-pledge in writing not to go to court. They negotiate in good faith, and reach a mutual agreement outside of court. Ending your marriage collaboratively can lessen the emotional strain caused by the end of the relationship, and protect the well being of children.

Is this the same as mediation?

No. In mediation, a neutral third party (the mediator) facilitates negotiations between the husband and wife. But the mediator doesn't represent either spouse, cannot give either spouse legal advice, and cannot be an advocate for either spouse. The mediator's primary function is to facilitate a settlement. If a spouse wants advice, he or she must hire a lawyer to get it.

Collaborative Practice combines the settlement goal of the mediator and the independent representation of the lawyer into one process. Each spouse hires a lawyer (and sometimes mental health and financial professionals) to represent him or her during the process, but with settlement as the goal. The lawyers - who are also trained mediators - have also received special training in interest-based negotiation. Their job is to work together with everyone ensuring the process stays balanced, positive and productive.

Collaborative practice and mediation both rely on the voluntary and free exchange of information and a commitment to finding solutions that meet the goals of both the husband and wife. The lawyers, spouses and any other professionals sign an agreement, which focuses everyone on resolution. The agreement prohibits the attorneys and any other professionals from participating in litigation if the spouses are unable to reach an agreement and the collaborative process is terminated.

How does Collaborative Practice actually work?

When a couple decides to pursue a collaborative divorce, they each hire collaborative lawyers. Then, each spouse meets privately with his or her lawyer. The next step is usually a four-way meeting with both lawyers and both spouses. The meetings are designed to create an atmosphere of mutual respect and engage in joint problem solving.

Additional experts, such as divorce coaches and child or financial specialists, may join the process. In some cases, the mental health or financial expert may be the first professional a spouse sees. These sessions, between spouses and their mental health or financial experts, help each spouse identify and express his or her needs and expectations. The well being of children is a priority.

How long does it take?

That's really up to the couple. Collaborative Practice can be a very efficient process for several reasons. The couple retains control of the timing instead of being subject to legal procedural requirements. The spouses focus on problem solving, not blaming or endlessly airing grievances. Lengthy court disputes over information and documents are avoided by voluntary full disclosure and open communication. Issues are raised and discussed in a timely manner. And finally, because settlement is reached out of court, you are not at the mercy of crowded court dockets that may be necessary with traditional divorce.

How much does it cost?

That depends on the couple. The cost of a collaborative family law case is directly related to the pace at which you and your spouse are able to reach an agreement on all issues. Our collaborative professionals charge by the hour just as in a traditional divorce. The difference is in how they use their time. Collaborative divorce eliminates the need for multiple court appearances, depositions and contested legal proceedings. By eliminating the court appearances and conflicts that are often part of a traditional divorce, the collaborative professionals are able to focus their time on either preparing for, conducting or following up after settlement conferences. This reduces not only the emotional, but the financial costs.

How do I know if it's right for us?

Are the answers to most of these questions true for both of you?

  • You want a civilized, respectful resolution of the issues.
  • You have children and want avoid the harm associated with court battles.
  • You want guidance and legal advice without the risk of escalated court proceedings.
  • You recognize the importance of working through emotions in order to make important legal, financial and child-related agreements.
  • You and your spouse have a circle of friends in common.
  • You value privacy and don't want your personal or financial information available in public court records.
  • You believe you and your spouse can make better decisions about your family and finances than a judge.
  • You want to avoid the pain and expense of having to return to court after the divorce if finalized.
  • Your vision for you and your family extends beyond the divorce, into retirement and adulthood of your children.

How do I start?

Contact one of our collaborative professionals for a consultation.