Collaborative family law – often referred to as collaborative divorce – is a unique process that enables couples to resolve their marital and family law issues by working with a specially trained team in a totally confidential setting outside of the court system. The collaborative team includes each party’s attorney, a neutral financial professional, and a neutral mental health professional. Each of the professionals should have significant training in the collaborative process.
Collaborative family law is built around the principle that in a family law case, the real focus should be on the parties’ true goals and interests, not their potential legal positions. The process allows parties to collaborate (instead of negotiate or bargain) with each other using the guidance of professionals from multiple disciplines. The process demands an open, truthful and respectful dialogue about the issues so that the parties can understand each other’s and their family’s real interests. By contrast, in a litigation setting, people often focus on what they could ask for from a court, whether or not they really want it, because they are trying to gain leverage using legal positions as a strategy to “win.” As most skilled family law practitioners know, there is very rarely a true winner in a family law case.
Collaborative law certainly is not appropriate for every situation. Regardless of the chosen process, the vast majority of cases are settled before a court ever has to make final decisions. The real question is how people want to arrive at a final resolution. Do they want to bargain with each other? Does one party want to overpower the other by exerting leverage or injecting stress and anxiety into the process? Are both parties truly interested in transparency? Depending upon the answers to these and many other questions, we work with our clients to determine whether the collaborative process is a good fit for their cases.
We believe the most satisfying settlements are the ones that empower our clients to move forward with their lives without having to carry the weight of a long, hard fought and emotionally draining court battle. There is no question that, when done right, the collaborative process requires respect, transparency and discretion, which are three things that help to avoid the heavy toll that a court battle can have one a family.