What is Collaborative Law? To many of you, Collaborative Law is a new phrase, and not yet part of your vocabulary. We want to change that!
For clients getting a divorce or who have other family law problems, who do not want to go to mediation but don’t want to go to Court and litigate, Collaborative Law provides them with a very good alternative.
Collaborative divorce is client-driven; it is a structured team approach that allows you to have a strong voice in the process but still have the support and advocacy of attorneys to guide you toward settlement by agreement. Collaborative Law can be used not just in divorce, but in all of the other family law practice areas that we do.
Here are some frequently asked questions about Collaborative Law. If there are other questions you have that you would like us to add to this list, which you think would be helpful to another client, please let us know!
- What is Collaborative Law?
- What kind of training does a Collaborative Lawyer have?
- How does Collaborative Law differ from Mediation or Litigation?
- What happens during the Collaborative Law process?
- Why is there a case facilitator or “coach”?
- What if we need other professionals to help us?
- What is the cost of Collaborative Law?
- How long does a Collaborative Law case take?
- How do I decide whether to do Collaborative Law vs. another process?
- How do I get the other party to also choose Collaborative Law?
- Where can I get more information about Collaborative Law?
A. You do have options other than Mediation or Litigation; Collaborative Law is a different approach to divorce or other family law problems and fills the gap between Litigation and Mediation often sought by clients. Like Mediation, it is an out of court, confidential process. However unlike Mediation or Litigation, where parties do not always have counsel, in Collaborative Law the parties each have attorneys who provide advice and advocacy to help their clients negotiate what is important to them.
The focus is an agreed upon settlement that is equitable and feels “fair” to both parties. The clients and attorneys all work toward defining the specifics of the agreement the parties are trying to reach; in a divorce the agreement would then be presented to the Probate and Family Court for approval and no court appearances are needed except for the final joint hearing to approve the negotiated agreement.
Collaborative Law can also be used in non-divorce cases such as post-divorce issues like college expenses, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, review and reconsideration of support, and modification of parenting plans.
Collaborative Law is well suited not just for cases that are amicable, but for complex and difficult divorces or other family law cases as well. Power imbalances, disputes about parenting and child care approaches, challenging asset valuations and divisions, business buyouts, and similar scenarios can benefit greatly from a collaborative approach. You should certainly consider Collaborative Law as an option if you want more control over process and outcome.
Working collaboratively also has other benefits: it may help you and your spouse find a way to co-parent after divorce; it may help maintain relationships with mutual friends, family, business or community connections that you don’t want to “split” as a result of your divorce; you want to go your separate ways but also be able move forward in your lives such that a process focused on collaboration rather than conflict is best for you.
A. A Collaborative Law attorney has generally a minimum 12 hour training course in Collaborative Law, which focuses on the specifics of the Collaborative Law process and negotiations. Many Collaborative Law attorneys are also trained mediators or have litigation experience as well.
A. In Collaborative Law, unlike either Mediation or Litigation, both parties have attorneys who are advocates for their clients and their clients’ interests. A neutral case facilitator is also part of the Collaborative Law process, whose primary role is to facilitate effective communication at meetings; this helps streamline the process and can actually help reduce costs by keeping the case focused and moving forward.
One of the hallmarks of the Collaborative Law process is that the clients and the attorneys agree not to go to Court except for final hearing or any agreed upon matters. If the process breaks down the Collaborative Law attorneys help the parties transition to litigation counsel; however in the Collaborative Law process the clients, attorneys, and the case facilitator all have a shared commitment to working out their issues by agreement which provides for a high degree of successful resolution.
A. What does a Collaborative Law case look like? The clients, their attorneys, and the case facilitator work collaboratively toward resolution. Everyone will have input in creating agendas for each meeting and in setting meeting schedules; the parties participate in choosing joint professionals as needed such as a business valuator or real estate appraiser; what documents are exchanged and how they are exchanged is also discussed and agreed upon.
Each meeting may focus on just one issue, for example a parenting plan, or multiple issues, based upon the agenda set. The number of meetings varies depending on the complexity and number of issues to be decided. The process fosters open discussion to help parties reach resolution as quickly and efficiently as possible.
A. A case facilitator or collaborative “coach” as they are sometimes called, is a neutral who plays a key role in the process, helping the parties to move through especially problematic, sensitive, or “hot-button” issues that would otherwise block effective communication and successful negotiation.
A. Financial professionals, business valuators, real estate appraisers or brokers, pension experts, child specialists, or other professionals can be part of the Collaborative Law process. While Mediation and Litigation sometimes also involve other professionals, they may not be joint professionals as they are in Collaborative Law. The use of joint professionals when needed, reduces time and cost and allows for the professional to be another neutral who can assist parties in gathering or understanding information necessary to determine asset values, parenting plans, or other issues in the case.
A. The cost of Collaborative Law can vary just like any other legal process – and like Mediation and Litigation it can depend on the complexity of the issues and the dynamics of the clients. However, the clients have the opportunity to think about costs and determine what is necessary in their case so that they can have some control over their costs.
A. The average Collaborative Law case, like Mediation, takes approximately six months although there are cases that take more or less time than that. Most litigated cases take longer.
A. There is no magic answer to determining what process works best for you – you should choose a process that you think will work best for you and serve your needs as well as those of your family in achieving your desired result. The attorneys at the Levitt Law Group will discuss your options with you to help you to make that decision.
When you meet with an attorney from the Levitt Law Group, they do an initial consultation during which time they take information about you, your marriage or other family law issues, your goals, interests, and concerns, and discuss with you your options including what process options you have available. They will also answer your questions, to help you decide if Collaborative Law is right for you.
A. We have information we can provide to you about Collaborative Law that you can also provide to the other party, including how the other party can find a collaboratively trained attorney. You are also welcome to send the other party to our website for information about Collaborative Law.