Collaborative Law: The Nuts and BoltsJune 15, 2018
What is Collaborative Law?
Collaborative law is a voluntary process that parties enter into which allows them to settle their disputes without court intervention.
The collaborative process is unique in that it is interdisciplinary. The parties must each be represented by collaboratively-trained attorneys and may elect to jointly employ a mental health professional who is also collaboratively-trained. The mental health professional is termed a “coach” and can assist the parties in communicating effectively during the process and/or in formulating a parenting plan if minor children are involved. The parties can also jointly retain a financial professional, such as a CPA or financial advisor who is collaboratively trained to assist them in developing a budget or to provide them with tax advice regarding the transfer or liquidation of assets.
What is the goal of Collaborative Law?
The parties’ goal is to reach a mutually acceptable settlement addressing their assets, children, spousal maintenance and/or child support, without causing irreparable harm to the family. The negotiations employ a shared-solutions approach and consider the well-being of the entire family, including minor children, if applicable. The parties, knowing their family better than the Court, are able to maintain control over the end result, as opposed to a decision being dictated by a stranger who has never interacted with the family and doesn’t know their needs.
How do I enter into Collaborative Law?
The parties and their collaboratively trained attorneys each sign a Participation Agreement. The Participation Agreement commits each person to voluntarily disclose all information relevant to the matter, to negotiate in good faith, and to refrain from threatening litigation to have their position met.
Once the Participation Agreement is signed, meetings are conducted with parties, their attorneys, the coach and/or financial professional present to gather information, exchange information, discuss options, and formulate a proposal. The collective problem-solving approach results in the creation of the settlement agreement.
Is the Collaborative Process Possible Even If I Can’t Get Along with My Former Partner?
Hard feelings and dysfunctional communication are normal when family dynamics shift with separation. The Collaborative process can assist the parties in effectively communicating to reach a resolution. The guiding principles of Collaborative law are fairness, openness, respect, and dignity. The collaboratively trained professionals selected by the parties to shepherd them through the collaborative process will assist in developing solutions to the outstanding issues.
Karen is a collaboratively trained professional with 13 years of experience. She serves as the Secretary of the Collaborative Professionals of Central Pennsylvania. She is also an active member in the Family Law Section of the Pennsylvania, and Dauphin County, Bar Association and Collaborative Law Section of the Pennsylvania Bar Association.