Can the parties use Collaborative Practice and each share the same attorney?
No, in Collaborative Practice each party needs an attorney and an attorney should be selected from those who have had Interdisciplinary Training in Collaborative Practice along with additional training in interest-based negotiation.
How is Collaborative Practice different from Mediation?
Mediation does not require the attorneys to be present and the process is facilitated by a neutral party. Sometimes the parties need more of a team approach and to have various divorce professionals working with them at the settlement table. Collaborative Practice involves an attorney for each party who is present for negotiations. There are financial and mental health professionals trained in the interdisciplinary process so that they can assist the attorneys as a team as needed to meet the financial and emotional needs of the parties and their children.
How is Collaborative Practice different than trying to reach an agreement through counsel?
In traditional negotiation between counsel, the attorneys do the back and forth communications and each attorney consults with his/her client as the negotiations proceed. In Collaborative Practice, the process begins with a meeting between the two attorneys and the two parties and the parties continue to be at the center of the process to enable them to be part of the discussions and to reach their own agreement.
Is a party giving up the right to litigate?
Only while in the Collaborative Process. There is a disqualification clause in the participation agreement where the parties agree that their Collaborative Attorneys will not represent their client in any contested litigation at any time. If either party chooses to, that party may terminate the Collaborative Process and choose an alternative approach such as mediation or litigation.
Is Collaborative Practice quicker and less expensive?
That depends; it certainly can be. Collaborative Practice is designed to be more manageable and less adversarial for the parties than litigation. It focuses on the needs of the family members and is a settlement based approach that is directed toward addressing those needs. The team works to enable both parties to move forward in an efficient and holistic manner.
In Collaborative Practice, the parties are not subject to an arbitrary court tracking system with a series of litigation deadlines that extend over a period of 12 – 24 months, on average, after the case is filed. There is full disclosure of relevant and requested information. However, the disclosure is targeted to the needs of the parties and their children and not to automated and routine formal discovery procedures in litigation. The goal is not just settlement, but a quality settlement that will serve the family over time and enable the parties to return to the Collaborative Process post settlement as needed and if circumstances change.
Quality settlement agreements that meet the interests of the parties are more likely to be complied with and not subject to appeal in the court system. Once a full settlement agreement is signed, if proceeding with a divorce, the divorce process in court is much less expensive and much quicker where the settlement agreement is incorporated as a court order and the court is not required to decide any substantive issues.
How does Collaborative Practice minimize hostility?
The professionals are trained in skills and procedures that enable them to work with the parties to express their interests in a positive and productive manner. Coaches and Child Specialists are available to assist with difficult conversations and addressing the needs of the parties and their children. Lawyers are available to answer questions in a transparent manner. Financial professionals may be used to create value and reduce expenses. Both parties are empowered with the same information; strategizing is discouraged; option generating is encouraged.
Is the Collaborative Process right for my situation?
The Collaborative Process is not necessarily appropriate for everyone. The parties must be willing to work honestly, openly, and in good faith to reach agreements without court intervention. If one party is unwilling to work honestly, openly, and in good faith to arrive at a fair resolution, then court involvement may be necessary. In this situation, the traditional litigation approach may be needed. However, since litigation will be costly, time consuming, and adversarial, it may be prudent to try one or more holistic approaches before resorting to court intervention.