Collaborative Law...Is it Right for You?

The business of ending a marriage can be complicated. There are many things that need to be worked out and the legal process can quickly become adversarial and contentious. An alternative to working out the details of family law issues in court is to participate in a process known as collaborative law. In the past twenty years, collaborative law has become an increasingly popular approach to working out family issues, although it is not appropriate for every case.  
Collaborative law is a voluntary process that involves both parties attending a series of meetings, with their lawyers, and other experts as needed, to come to a settlement. The parties must agree not to go to court and to instead fully participate in the collaborative law process. In order to decide of collaborative law is right for you, it is important to consider the pros and cons of the collaborative law approach.
Pros of Collaborative Law
Some of the advantages of collaborative law include:
·         The collaborative law participation agreement requires the parties to be courteous and to act in good faith;
·         Both sides must disclose all pertinent facts. While the same may be true of the legal process, it is less expensive to have each side simply disclose all pertinent facts than to engage in the legal discovery process.
·         Both sides must agree not to use mistakes made by the other party against the other party, thus encouraging open communication;
·         The encouragement of open communication and the emphasis on settlement allows the parties to find ways to work together that can be especially important if the couple has minor children and will need to continue communicating with one another long after the divorce is final.
Cons of Collaborative Law
Some of the drawbacks of collaborative law include:
·         If the process does not result in a settlement, the lawyer who represented the parties in the collaborative law process may not represent the parties in court;
·         If the process does not result in a settlement, both money and time may have been wasted and the couple will need to engage in traditional court based divorce proceedings in order to end their marriage.
For these reasons, it is important to consider whether collaborative law is likely to work for you. Collaborative law attorneys are required to screen potential candidates and to review the pros and cons of the collaborative law approach with their clients before the process begins so that each client can make an informed decision about whether to go forward with the process.
Collaborative law is often referred to as the team approach to divorce settlements. There is no opposing party. Instead, the soon to be ex spouses, each represented by counsel, work together to come to a mutually agreeable divorce settlement. That said, if a team approach is not possible due to domestic violence, abuse, fear, intimidation, coercion or other significant issues then collaborative law may not be the best approach. It is, however, an important option for every divorcing couple to consider.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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