“Collaborative” sounds good. But what does it really mean to have a collaborative law process for your divorce?
Couples who are divorcing have options beyond just litigation and mediation. Collaborative law is a practice that mixes the negotiation and collaboration of mediation and the legal advocacy you would have in litigation. This method of family law dispute and resolution practice has been gaining popularity in the US since the 90’s as more and more lawyers are training to work on collaborative law cases. So, what makes the ‘new kid on the block’ so special?
How it works
In Collaborative Law each party hires a lawyer to work alongside them and look out for their interests. These lawyers agree not to represent their clients in court and cannot move with the case into litigation if that is what a person later chooses. Because of this limitation, the lawyers are also invested in helping their clients avoid the financial and emotional toll of litigation — and resolve the matter outside of court. The decision to stay out of court not only saves you money but promises that the ultimate decision is something you’ve signed off on, which doesn’t happen if you leave it up to a judge.
In collaborative cases, there are 5 main players: The two people divorcing, their attorneys, and a collaborative coach. A collaborative coach, much like a mediator, is neutral and moves the process forward. These five people meet to discuss the issues that need to be resolved. Both parties are actively involved in the discussion with every step, unlike litigation where negotiations are done through the lawyers. In collaborative law, the lawyers are there to look out for their client’s best interests and use their training to advocate for them in a professional and respectful way, but the clients are there to talk about why they want a particular outcome.
Often, a neutral expert joins the process. These neutral experts could be addressing finances, real estate, business valuation, and other complex topics. They analyze the parties’ situation and provide options for the parties to choose from. This is very different from litigation, which is a “battle of the experts,” who advocate for different positions and sometimes the best option, the “win-win” option, gets buried underneath each party’s argument for the solution that is best only for them.
Is it right for you?
Although collaborative law can work to resolve disagreements of all sizes, it has to be the right fit for both parties.
Both parties need to be ready for transparency and, living up to the title, ready to collaborate. If you or your partner would not be able to do that, litigation might be your only option. On the other hand, if you think that each of you could advocate for yourselves if a neutral mediator could guide you through a few thorny issues and educate you about the law, mediation might be what you’re looking for.
Divorce has so many moving parts, and is tied up in a lot of emotion. These issues are rarely black and white. If you’re open to navigate and triumph over the gray, collaborative law is a great option.
Collaborative Law with Bedford Family Lawyer
Bedford Family Lawyer offers collaborative divorce. Rebecca Neale is a trained collaborative law attorney and is passionate about getting the best desired outcome for her clients. Her background as a mediator as well as an attorney makes her perfectly equipped for the team-oriented problem solving and negotiation needed in collaborative law cases. Interested in working with Rebecca on a collaborative case? Sign up for a consultation below.
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