Collaborative law (or collaborative practice) is similar to mediation in that it is a series of structured conversations designed to assist the parties in making decisions together. The crux of the process is a series of 4-way meetings, with each party and their lawyer at the table. The lawyers are trained as mediators, and hold the “mediative consciousness” while still being by your side. Like mediation, the process is confidential, and proceeds only with mutual agreement. Your lawyer’s role is to advocate for you while guiding the conversations toward results that are acceptable and beneficial to everyone involved.
The collaborative process is an excellent alternative to mediation if you have difficulty expressing yourself in the presence of the other party, if there is a power imbalance, or if you simply feel more comfortable having an advocate with you in the room.
A key feature of the collaborative process is that, before beginning, you and your partner sign an agreement stating that you do not intend to go to court, and you agree to hire new attorneys if the process breaks down and does end up in litigation. That provides tremendous incentive to stay at the table, even when the conversation gets hard. In addition, knowing that the process is confidential allows each side to be more honest, to admit wrongdoing, or even offer apologies, as appropriate.
As an alternative to divorce mediation, collaborative divorce – also known as no-court divorce – may be better suited to couples with complex situations, or when there is a power imbalance. Having a collaborative lawyer working side by side with you can be reassuring, helping you focus on solving the task at hand. It also helps you maintain a dignified relationship with your partner, which can be especially important if you are going to co-parent together. Collaborative process helps you stay in control of the process, and protects your confidentiality. It is oriented toward problem-solving, rather than finding fault. As with mediation, our role is to help you identify and address the interests and concerns that are most important to you.
There can also be others on the collaborative team, as well. For instance, we may refer you to:
- Divorce coaches – are trained mental-health professionals who can work with you individually to help control emotional responses so you can make well-reasoned decisions.
- Financial neutrals – these Certified Divorce Financial Planners gather all of the pertinent financial information and help you and your partner come up with a financial roadmap for your future.
- Child specialists – therapists with experience and training in working with children to help you and your partner best understand your child’s needs, and to come up with a plan to meet those needs.
Joy is specially trained in collaborative law, and in interdisciplinary collaborative process. Joy is a member of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals.