Collaborative Practice – FAQs

1. What is collaborative practice?

Collaborative Practice is an option for divorcing couples to resolve disputes respectfully and equitably without going to court.  The goal of collaborative practice is to help divorcing and separating couples to focus on their most important goals, especially children, throughout the divorce process. The end result is a more efficient, targeted and productive way to resolve disputes

2. What distinguishes collaborative practice from other methods of divorce?

Collaborative Practice promotes respect and keeps spouses in control of the process, not judges. It addresses each couple’s unique concerns, as opposed to litigation which is driven by the general rule of law meant to apply to all. Because clients agree not to go to court, the process is more open and less adversarial. The goal is to enhance communication throughout the process and lay the foundation for a healthier relationship after the divorce.

 3. What is the biggest difference between collaborative practice and litigation?

Most family law cases do settle but they do so on the courthouse steps, after most of the damage of litigation has occurred. If a commitment to the collaborative process is agreed upon early it can avoid inflammatory court papers being filed, polarized positions of the parties and children being drawn into the center of a “battle zone”.

Control – In collaborative, you and your spouse agree not to go to court. This gives you and your spouse control of the process and outcome versus litigation, where a judge makes the final decision.

Collaboration – Instead of the win-lose court setting, the entire collaborative team ensures that both spouses work with each other, not against each other, towards mutually beneficial solutions for critical issues.

Communication – One barrier in litigation is a lack of effective communication between spouses. In the collaborative process, spouses learn a framework for effectively communicating their concerns and goals.

Creativity – The collaborative process allows for the parties and interdisciplinary team to be creative in the restructuring of the family. Allowing for possible solutions and relief that courts and the litigation process may not otherwise be able to provide.

4. What is the biggest difference between collaborative practice and mediation?

Interdisciplinary Team approach – The entire collaborative law team is there to help facilitate communication between the spouses, working towards the best possible solution for all and making sure all issues are addressed. Both attorneys and expert neutrals involved in the collaborative process are committed to helping the parties reach an agreement. The parties never lose their right of access to the courts and if the process breaks down the collaborative lawyers are disqualified from participating in subsequent litigation. This distributes the risks and costs of failure to the lawyers, neutrals and clients alike.

5. What can you expect with the collaborative process?

A series of team meetings are scheduled to systematically identify and examine the issues, explore options and work toward an agreement that satisfies both parties. An agenda is set for each meeting in advance, so that everyone is clear on what issues will be discussed during any given meeting.  A problem-solving approach is always used, centered in “interest based negotiations”.  Collaborative attorneys are trained in
collaborative practice as well as interest-based negotiation, and they help the parties, with the assistance of other team members, to work productively to find agreements that meet the real interests of both parties. All of the professionals that make up the collaborative team have access to all efforts to identify and resolve issues in a more open forum, which makes it more difficult for one participant to pursue a “hidden agenda”.

6. Who makes up the collaborative team?

A full team of interdisciplinary collaborative professionals will include collaboratively trained lawyers for each of the parties, a financial neutral, and a mental health professional. Other professionals may be included in the team if necessary for the issues applicable to the parties to advance the flow of information and negotiations.

 7. What are the benefits to the parties of collaborative practice process?

  • Improves communication between parties
  • Full, voluntary, early discovery disclosure
  • Keeps control of process with the parties
  • Transparency of the process
  • Promotes respect and healthier long-term communications. Communication skills acquired during collaborative process may have positive applications outside divorce or when future disputes arise.
  • Utilizes specialists who leverage their areas of expertise to address children’s needs and the emotional and financial aspects of divorce
  • Creates a safe environment for both parties without the threat of court
  • Shares information that allows good decisions to be made
  • Focuses on a creative and respectful approach that helps clients reach a mutually agreeable settlement
  • The only goal of the collaborative process is to achieve a “win-win” solution on all significant issues for the both the parties.

Source information adapted from International Academy of Collaborative Professionals.