Collaborative Law is an alternate, out-of-court method of resolving all divorce-related issues through the help of a professional team. Once the spouses agree that the collaborative process is the one they will use, they will each need to engage a collaboratively trained lawyer.
The Collaborative process allows spouses to work with a number of professionals to resolve their issues, including mental health coaches and financial experts. Each spouse can engage their own mental health coach or the spouses can use one coach. If a financial expert is needed in a particular Collaborative matter, he or she will always act as a neutral party to offer financial advice to both spouses. A neutral child specialist can also be part of a Collaborative team if there are minor children.
At the beginning of the Collaborative process, the professionals will often meet or have a teleconference prior to the first team meeting. This pre-meeting helps the professionals determine what issues are involved and whether all professionals need to be at the first meeting. In some cases, the financial neutral might not attend the first meeting. At the first meeting, the lawyers and clients will sign a participation agreement where they will agree to use the Collaborative process and that no one will use the court system so long as the Collaborative process is working. To help ensure that the attorneys will help the spouses work toward settlement, the Collaborative process requires spouses to hire separate attorneys if the Collaborative process is unsuccessful and the spouses use litigation.
In between team meetings, the spouses might meet individually with their attorneys or coaches. When needed, the spouses might also spend additional time with the financial neutral outside of the full team meetings. Typically, each spouse will be given homework between meetings, which can include gathering documents or thinking of possible solutions.
The Collaborative process can take several months, depending on the complexity of the issues and the ability of the spouses to agree. Once the spouses are able to agree on all issues, the attorneys will draft a written agreement for the spouses to sign.