“Collaborative Law” is one of several Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) methods enjoying increasing favor among consumers of legal services. It is significantly different than mediation or arbitration and has become enormously popular among legal services consumers and attorneys throughout the country.
In a Collaborative Family Law divorce action, the husband and wife are each represented by their own attorneys, but those two attorneys have both been trained in a new system of handling such cases by working together toward an equitable solution. In addition, both parties and their respective attorneys must sign a Collaborative Law Participation Agreement in which they agree to be strictly bound by the principles of Collaborative Law, which include:
- Neither side will file any motions with the Court.
- Both sides agree to fully disclose all assets and liabilities associated with the marriage.
- Both parties and their counsel agree that there will be no secrets and no dirty tricks.
- If either side starts filing motions with the Court, then both attorneys are automatically disqualified and the parties have to secure new attorneys.
- If all efforts by the parties and their counsel fail to result in a resolution, then both attorneys must resign from the case and the parties must both go out and find new attorneys to represent them in litigation.
- Collaborative Family Law requires that the attorneys on both sides be trained to work collaboratively with the other side.
- Everyone involved has to sign a Collaborative Law Participation Agreement. Other experts can be called in by the parties to assist them in resolving the case — psychologists, psychiatrists, therapist, financial planners, etc. — which makes these cases multi-disciplinary.
This type of cooperative efforts to resolve clients’ family law issues is a 180-degree shift from the way divorce and custody cases have historically been handled.
In Collaborative Family Law, there are no motions filed and there are no hearings. The parties and their attorneys meet together in a 4-way conference and agree to settle the case in the best and most inventive way possible, thereby eliminating much of the anger, hostility and resentment that usually accompany these cases. This, too, is a way for parents to focus their time, energy and attention on devising a creative way to share parenting time with their children rather than concentrating on how to defeat the “enemy”.