Collaborative law is a process available to individuals who want to terminate their marriage outside of court in the most dignified and empowering way possible. You will still ultimately be ending your marriage by dissolution, but the process to get to that point is very different in Collaborative Law. First, you and your spouse must agree to enter into a Collaborative Law Agreement and each hire attorneys who are trained in Collaborative Law. In order to be trained in Collaborative Law, your attorney completed an intensive two-day training course in Collaborative Law. Along with your attorneys, you also have the option to involve “neutrals” in the case. The two types of neutrals available are the Family Relations Specialist and the Financial Specialist. The FRS has a mental health background and helps deal and resolve the intense conflicts that can arise during the process. The FRS typically comes to most of the meetings. The FRS will meet with you in advance of the first meeting to verify that your case is a good case for Collaborative Law and to learn about your situation. FRSs are invaluable to the process and I insist that an FRS is involved in all of my Collaborative Law cases. The FS has a background in financials and accounting and helps with the property and support aspect of the case.
Once you sign the Collaborative Agreement, the process begins (see outlined process below). A key element of Collaborative Law is that if any party wants to terminate the process once the Collaborative Agreement is signed, the process will terminate and each party must hire new attorneys to file for divorce. Further, any neutral or attorney involved is prohibited by law from being forced to testify in your divorce case. Requiring the parties to “go all in” in the collaborative process gives a huge incentive to stick with the process even during the hard times and reduces the likelihood that threat of divorce will be used as a negotiation tactic.
Key differences between traditional dissolution negotiation and Collaborative Law
- No special training.
- Can file divorce at any time during process.
- No agreement is signed to begin process.
- Negotiation is done either by correspondence or settlement conference. (no set way)
- No structured process on how the case progresses. Up to the parties involved.
- No neutrals are involved. Can hire experts but no confidentiality or protection against testifying.
- Other attorney is called opposing counsel.
- No duty to correct opposing counsel’s mistakes.
- 30 day waiting period for final hearing.
- Attorney to have special training in Collaborative Law.
- Must sign a Collaborative Agreement.
- Must wait 30 days (with certain exceptions) to file divorce after process is terminated.
- Most negotiation in meetings vs. offline.
- There is a structured process adhered to during the entirety of the case.
- Can involve FRS and FS neutrals that are protected from being forced to testify if divorce filed.
- Other attorney is called counterpart counsel.
- Intended to be less adversarial.
- Attorneys have a duty to correct counterpart counsel’s mistakes.
- No waiting period for final hearing.
Timeline for Collaborative Law
- Retain collaboratively trained attorneys
- Counterpart Attorneys have initial discussion to identify neutrals
- Parties meet with Family Relations Specialist (FRS)
- First group meeting, agreement signed and goals and interests completed. Next meeting scheduled and next steps decided.
- Second, third, fourth meeting (depending on the scope of the case). Financial Specialist would be involved during these meetings if applicable. Offline meetings with FRS/FS may occur during this time. Final agreement made.
- Document drafting by attorneys.
- Signing meeting. All documents will be signed and then filed with the court.
- Final hearing
If you have an interest in utilizing Collaborative Law for your dissolution, please contact us to set up an appointment. We are eager to discuss this option with you.