- How does Collaborative Practice differ from other dispute resolution processes?
Collaborative Practice (CP) begins with a written commitment not to go to Court except to have the final agreement approved by a judge. This allows for more open and transparent discussions and problem-solving. The spotlight is on the solutions not on strategizing for a Court “win.” Full disclosure of all relevant information is critical to making informed decisions. If you are not worrying about how information will be used in Court against you later, you can focus on working toward an effective resolution. Unlike other dispute resolution processes, all the parties in a Collaborative case have attorney advocates to assist in the process.The parties control the outcome of the process and determine their own Agreement with the help of the professionals. This is a chance for parties to resolve their case on their own terms. In addition, the Courts are sometimes limited in the matters they can address and the outcomes that are available. Collaborative Practice provides a process for solving unique issues or for creating unique solutions. Collaborative Practice also creates a private atmosphere to address personal concerns.
- What is a “team?”
You are part of the team! In this process the professionals are there to support the parties not to control the outcome. Everyone works together toward that outcome. The team consists of the parties, the attorneys, a neutral coach/facilitator, a neutral financial specialist and, where appropriate, a neutral child specialist as well as other relevant professionals. Examples of other possible team members include real estate appraisers, pension and retirement experts, tax specialists, business evaluators and other professionals who can provide valuable information and support to the parties as they work toward resolving their situation.
- Why do I need a team?
To find solutions that work for you and your situation, you must be able to make informed decisions. The lawyers do not have all the answers. A better use of your time and money is to consult with the professionals who have knowledge in areas relevant to your situation. By jointly hiring these professionals, you can be sure that they have relevant information from all parties, thereby contributing to a more balanced evaluation of the situation and recommendations. The coach/facilitator is in a unique role of assisting with the management of the process and the emotions that sometimes interfere with constructive pursuit of solutions. Having someone with these skills helps the process progress more smoothly and efficiently.
- With all these people involved, is it expensive?
Just as the parties control the outcome of the process, they jointly control factors such as timing and frequency of meetings, constructive use of the time and use of expert resources. When the professionals are working on your case, they are working on your case. They are not sitting in a Court room waiting to be called on by a judge or spending time preparing for a trial that will likely never happen. And, having all the relevant information and professional assistance will increase the likelihood that the solution works for you. So, it is money well spent. Also consider that most attorneys who go to Court underestimate the cost of litigation. Not intentionally. They know that most cases do eventually settle so; they do not always include the cost of going to trial in their initial retainer quotes. They overlook, however, the cost of multiple trips to the Courthouse and how inefficient that can be, the high cost of taking each step with the assumption that there will be a trial and the extra work that involves, the high cost of having duplicate and often dueling experts, to name just a few of the often underestimated costs of litigation. Collaborative Practice is almost always less expensive than litigation.
- How long does it take?
As stated above, the parties control the timing. The process usually concludes before a contested Court process would. But, sometimes parties need time to deal with child-related issues, business or employment concerns, making career choices, etc. The Collaborative Practice process allows the parties to do what needs to be done to have a resolution that works.
- What if the process does not work for me?
The professional team members can not continue if either or both parties decide to take the matter to a Judge to decide the outcome. They must withdraw and the parties both have to get new attorneys, even if only one party wants to go to Court. Of course, terminating the process is a “last resort.” The professionals will explore options with the parties. Sometimes bringing in a mediator to address a problematic issue helps. Or, a case evaluator might provide an impartial overview. The team will help transition to next steps.
- Is Collaborative Practice just for cases where my spouse and I get along and can agree on most things?
No! Many Collaborative cases are complex and difficult. Parties often have different approaches to parenting, money and what is “fair.” Power imbalances between people can shift depending on the topic being discussed. Collaborative Practice helps parties work through the challenges of separation and divorce while aiding them in establishing ways to co-parent and face the future.
For additional information, see our Collaborative Law Resources in the right sidebar or contact us for a consultation.
You may also view the following video on Collaborative Divorce: A true life story of one couple as they proceed through their own Collaborative divorce.