4 Reasons to Select the Collaborative Law ProcessAugust 19, 2019
Collaborative law is a method of case-resolution, in which parties voluntarily agree to settle their disputes without court intervention, as opposed to using the methods of litigation or mediation.
A series of meetings are conducted with the parties, their counsel and any other jointly retained professionals. The parties’ goal is to reach an agreement regarding their assets, debts, children, spousal maintenance and/or child support, without causing irreparable harm to the family.
The collaborative process is unique in that it is interdisciplinary. The parties must each be represented by collaboratively-trained attorneys but may decide to jointly retain a mental health professional who is also collaboratively-trained.
The mental health professional, termed “coach” on the collaborative team, assists the parties in communicating effectively during the process and/or in formulating a parenting plan if minor children are involved. The parties can also choose to jointly employ a financial professional, such as a CPA or financial advisor, who is collaboratively trained to assist the parties in developing a budget.
So, why choose the collaborative divorce law model:
- Privacy: The parties sign a Participation Agreement at the first meeting, which requires them to resolve their matters outside of Court. Personal finances, accounts, income, and/or inflammatory allegations are not splashed across the pages of the court docket. Agreements are not filed.
- Control: The parties, knowing their family better than a Judge, Divorce Master and/or Custody Conference Officer, 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.
- Solutions-based approach: The negotiations in the collaborative model employ a shared-solutions approach and consider the well-being of the entire family, including minor children, if applicable. The attorneys, parties, coach, and financial professionals are all working toward a common goal of an agreement and can implement non-traditional plans of action that a Judge, Divorce Master and/or Custody Conference Officer would not consider or utilize. The team has space to ‘think outside the box’ to create a solution that works for the parties’ circumstances. At times, meetings are devoted to brainstorming or ‘think tanking’ to develop options.
- Preservation of the family: Emotions run high when change occurs, particularly when finances, budget, worries of the future, and/or children are involved. The guiding principles of collaborative law are fairness, openness, respect, and dignity. The collaborative process can assist the parties in effectively communicating to reach a resolution. Please do not be misled: the collaborative process is still difficult and emotional. Parties are discussing tough topics, such as finances, assets, debts, budgets, income, and parenting plans, across the table from one another at the meetings.
They cannot hide behind their attorneys, or fire letters back and forth like missiles. Further, discussions are future-focused and prospective, which forces the parties to have to think about their future in a different family structure than they experienced, historically. This can be awkward, sad and scary; however, the collaboratively trained professionals shepherd the parties through the process.
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.