An up-and-coming trend in Family Law is what is referred to as the Collaborative Practice. Collaborative Divorce was founded in 1990 as an alternative to adversarial divorce proceedings. This process was created by Stu Webb who “wanted to create a divorce process that allows the attorneys to exercise analytical, reasoned ability to solve problems and generate creative alternatives creating a positive context for settlement” [Stu Webb letter to Minnesota Justice A.M. Keith, Feb. 14, 1990]. The Collaborative Process helps divorcing families move forward, communicate better, and solve disputes in a more respectful manner without judicial intervention.

Collaborative Divorce is a process that is dedicated to helping couples and families resolve disputes without the use of the judicial system. The process allows separating spouses to complete their divorce in a spirit of cooperation and mutual respect. This process is completed through the use of a team (including attorneys, mental health professionals, accountants, and financial planners) and is confidential and requires transparency within the team. A collaborative divorce protects the party’s privacy, which is something that often times does not happen in a traditional divorce setting. The main goal in the Collaborative Process is reaching a place of cooperation. The process hopes to reach mutual agreement, as opposed to focusing on the differences between the parties. Many parties also learn new communication skills that are helpful in coping with family interaction after a divorce. For divorces that involve children, the parties’ communication does not cease to exist after the judgment of divorce is final. They are coparents for life, so these newly learned communication skills that the Collaborative Practice offers can be imperative for maintaining that healthy communication long term. Further, the Collaborative Process allows the parties to creatively control the outcome of financial support, the distribution of assets, and care for the children. Generally speaking, a collaborative divorce can be completed quicker than going through a divorce the more traditional route.

Your Collaborative Process trained attorney will help to explain the risks and benefits of the process. They will advocate for your and encourage your engagement in the process. They will guide you through the process, start to finish, they will help you develop creative options for settlement. Finally, they will prepare all the legal documentation.

The benefits of the Collaborative Process Include:

  • Privacy, transparency, and confidentiality
  • The control is in the hands of the parties when it comes to deciding the outcome of the various factors of their divorce (including support and property distribution)
  • Each party has the opportunity to be heard and advocated for
  • The settlement discussions and meetings are informal, focusing on what makes the parties comfortable and encouraging conducive communication
  • The process seeks to reduce unnecessary conflict and combative communication
  • The pace of the process is in the hands of the parties. The process will move as slow or as fast as the parties want to
  • There is no grueling discovery period with dueling experts, lengthy and painful depositions, and expensive subpoenas.

The main risk to this process is that the attorneys that represent the parties in the Collaborative Process are not permitted to represent the parties in court in the event that the Collaborative Process does not result in a final settlement agreement. However, that being said, a 2015 survey conducted by the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (“IACP”) showed that there was a 94% success rate of the Collaborative Practice. This disqualification provision works as an incentive for the attorneys to make the Collaborative Practice work and place the wishes of the parties at the forefront, every step of the way.

While marriages that involve domestic violence are not good cases for this practice, marriages that involve conflict and poor communication skills between the parties can still utilize and benefit from the Collaborative Process. As mentioned above, the goal of the Collaborative Process is to ensure that both sides are heard and you attorney’s job is to advocate for you while helping you express your wants and your concerns in a manner that is effective, yet respectful. The goal, above all else, is cooperation and mutual respect between all team members of the process.

Is the Collaborative Process one that you want to use to complete your divorce? Do you have questions on the Collaborative Process? Call HTY Law today to speak with a certified Collaborative Practice attorney to get started today!

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