What is collaborative family law?
It’s a unique, reasonable approach to handling a divorce or other family law matter, founded on four core principles:
- a written pledge not to fight in court,
- withdrawal of the hired professionals if either party chooses to fight in court,
- open communication between the parties with an honest and good faith exchange of information,
- and negotiations leading to a mutually acceptable settlement that takes into account the highest priorities of all family members.
The collaborative approach works with a team mindset; you and the other party, along with your attorneys, may also use the skills of mental health and financial specialists to maximize positive outcomes for the family.
In addition to divorce, you can use the collaborative process in other family law matters such as paternity, annulment, legal separation, pre-marital agreements, post-nuptial agreements, non-marital relationships and same-sex relationships.
The issues addressed in collaborative cases are the same ones addressed in traditional litigation cases: child custody and placement, property valuation and division, child support, maintenance (alimony), taxes, and insurance.
Is the collaborative process right for me?
Consider the collaborative process if some or all of these statements are true for you:
- You want a civilized, respectful resolution of the issues.
- You recognize the importance of working through emotions in order to make comprehensive legal, financial and child-related agreements.
- If you and your partner have children together, you want the best family relationship possible now and in the future, and want to avoid the harm associated with court battles.
- You value privacy and do not want your personal or financial information available in the public court record.
- You recognize that you and your partner can make better decisions about your family and finances than anyone else.
- You understand that collaborative resolution involves achieving your reasonable goals and achieving the reasonable goals of your partner, rather than achieving a financial or child placement victory no matter the human or financial cost.
- Your goals include a vision for your family that extends long beyond the immediate matter at hand, into retirement for you and your partner and adulthood for the children.
What is a collaborative divorce team?
Depending upon the needs of the family, the collaborative team generally consists of professionals from three separate disciplines: legal, mental health and financial. The professionals work together by providing their respective expertise to help families through their family law matter.
Professionals on the team all subscribe to the three core principles and are formally trained in the collaborative process. None of the team members can be involved in any contested court hearing, and all hired professionals will withdraw from the case if it does result in a contested court hearing.
The collaborative team includes the parties and their attorneys, and generally includes collaborative coaches, child specialists, and financial specialists.
Your coach is there to assist you throughout your legal matter, not to treat mental health issues. Similarly, if your child sees a therapist, that professional deals with treatment of your child’s emotional issues. The Collaborative child specialist is not in a therapy role, but rather educates parties on the needs and desires of the child so that those needs and desires are taken into consideration when creating your long-term parenting plan.
Will my children be involved in the process, and if so, to what extent?
If a child specialist is needed, the specialist will interview the child individually or as a sibling group at least once, and in some cases more often. The children’s involvement in your legal matter is limited to those contacts.
How do I know that my partner won’t hide information or money?
No process can guarantee absolute honesty or prevent a person from hiding assets or lying under oath. In the collaborative process, each party commits in writing to a full and voluntary disclosure of all assets and income. Entering in to voluntary disclosure avoids expensive formal processes such as subpoenas and depositions. Both of you will be required to sign a financial disclosure statement -together – under penalty of perjury, stating that each has made full disclosure.
Will my collaborative lawyer “fight” for me?
Your lawyer is your advocate in the collaborative process. However, that advocacy is different from the lawyer’s role in a litigated case. In a collaborative situation, your lawyer strives to negotiate and achieve your goals in a respectful and cooperative manner.
In both private and four-way meetings (meetings among you, the other party and both of your attorneys), your lawyer focuses on educating, advising and assisting you to understand the legal issues and options for settlement. Your lawyer is committed to protecting your reasonable settlement goals while preserving your interest in reaching an outcome that is best for you and your family.
What happens if a settlement cannot be reached?
The team assembled for you by the Foundation will work diligently to resolve your case. Because they are volunteers and the process is provided at no cost to you, a dedication to a resolution of the case is absolutely necessary, by everyone involved. If at any time your team determines that you and your spouse/partner are not cooperating in that effort, they may request that the Foundation end its services to you. The Foundation’s governing body and case review committee reserves the right to terminate those services at any time.
You and your partner are then free to explore other options. The Foundation’s team members – collaborative lawyers, and any other team members – will not be available to you in any future action.
Have a question?
eMail the Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org, or give us a call at 262-235-0009.
If unavailable we will return the call as soon as possible.