Within the context of family law matters (separation, divorce, parenting plans, etc.), Collaborative Law offers clients the benefits of working through the issues where each of them is represented by an attorney combined with the common goal of reaching agreement out-of-court. Depending on the needs of the family, other professionals (financial, child/family, communication) may be part of the "team." This process is distinctly non-adversarial, and approaches the difficult task of untangling partnerships/marriages and building agreements in a respectful and dignified manner. Where the parties would benefit from the services of a financial or child specialist, the process allows them to work independently with that professional in an arrangement that best meets their needs.
All the professionals, including the attorneys, are specially trained in collaborative practice. The process has built-in checks and balances that ensure full disclosure, confidentiality and accountability.
How the collaborative process differs from mediation
In mediation, the parties are discussing the issues with the aid of a neutral third party. Generally, although not always, there are three people in the room. If the parties have retained attorneys, they usually assist and advise from the side. As described above, other neutral professionals can work with the parties, either separate from the mediation or as part of the mediation.
In collaborative practice, the discussions generally include the parties and their respective attorneys. The collaborative attorney advises and coaches the client throughout the process and actively participates in the meetings. There may be times, if a financial or child specialist is involved, where parties meet separately with the other professional, who is neutral in their role. At some point, the other professional may join the parties and attorneys for one or two meetings, as necessary.
"Thank you for all your hard work and diligence working with me and this case! You were a great resource and an excellent shoulder to lean on for support. What you did for me was beyond your obligation as a lawyer and I appreciate all that you have done for me!" S.M. 2011
Collaborative practice may be the better option if a client feels he or she would benefit from having an advocate and legal adviser by his/her side, if the issues are complicated, if the parties desire professional oversight in the management of their case, or if some of the above-mentioned circumstances such as mental illness, power/control dynamics, or high conflict exist. If these additional factors are part of the parties' circumstances, it is likely other professionals will be part of the team. The attorneys typically work together to assemble the best fit to meet the specific needs of the family involved.
Building Agreements and Completing Necessary Tasks
All the tasks of effectuating the legal aspects of dissolving the marriage or partnership can be completed by the collaborative attorneys. Clients are assured that there won't be any loose ends or tasks left uncompleted or unaccounted for.
Only where the needs and interests of both parties are identified and addressed, can an agreement be reached that is both workable and durable. This process is difficult no matter how amicable parties may feel towards each other, or have good intentions of keeping out excessive conflict. Regardless of where the level of conflict between parties falls on the continuum, I work closely with clients to help them achieve what is most important to them and their children. I am accessible and return phone calls and emails promptly. I keep abreast of the latest developments in both the law and collaborative practice and attend continuing education programs regularly. I am forthright, open and thorough in my communication and representation.
I offer a free half-hour consultation to discuss your situation, answer your questions and give you an opportunity to assess how well collaborative law may fit your needs.