- 1. Why Collaborative Law?
You have a lawyer represent you. The lawyer has special training in interest-based negotiations that focuses on solving problems and reaching a settlement. The process is civil, and there are no threats of litigation. The parties and lawyers cooperate in exchanging information. The process is usually much less expensive than litigation.
- 2. How does Collaborative Law compare to Litigation?
In Collaborative Law you don’t have to go to court. There is no trial. The lawyers are focused only on settling your case. The goal of the process is a settlement agreement that addresses the needs of both parties.
Litigation points toward a trial with a winner and loser. It is an adversarial system, in which each party presents his or her best case so the judge can decide which party wins. Most lawyers will try to settle your case before trial, but they must be prepared for trial if the case does not settle. The process produces a greater risk of fighting and polarization with greater costs.
In both processes, you have an attorney representing you at all stages.
Parties who are able to settle their case through Collaborative Law generally report greater satisfaction with the process, less polarization and acrimony, better preservation of ongoing relationships. They also have the ability to customize their agreements. They also generally spend less money on attorneys than cases that result in contested court appearances.
On the other hand, Collaborative Law is not appropriate for everyone. Sometimes, the parties need to resolve the terms of their divorce through litigation.
- 3. How does Collaborative Law compare to Mediation?
The two processes have similarities. Both processes keep you out of court. Since a judge does not decide for you, you retain control of the terms of agreement. Both are focused on solving problems using interest-based negotiation, and searching for options that meet the needs of both parties. In general both processes tend to be more civil and respectful than litigation.
The biggest difference between Collaborative Law and Mediation is in who guides the process. In Collaborative Law, the clients have lawyers that guide the clients through the process. In Mediation, the Mediator or Co-Mediators, guide clients through the process, and the client often do not have lawyers present during mediation sessions.
- 4. What are the disadvantages of Collaborative Law?
The main disadvantage is that you have to hire a litigation lawyer if the case does not settle. You have to weigh this disadvantage against the many benefits that Collaborative Law offers.
You should consult a professional who will give you help and straight talk about the best process fit for you.
- 5. What is a Participation Agreement?
In Collaborative Law the parties and lawyers sign an agreement that says if the case does not settle, the parties must retain trial lawyers. The Collaborative Lawyers will not serve as trial lawyers.
The purpose of this disqualification agreement is to allow the Collaborative Lawyers to focus exclusively on negotiating a settlement agreement using collaborative principles and practices. The parties benefit, because the lawyers can maintain their focus and stick to their goal if they do not have to worry about becoming adversaries.
- 6. Do I have to agree to terms I don’t want?
One of the main advantages to resolving your case through negotiated settlements is that you keep control of the terms. You never have to, and shouldn’t, enter into an agreement you do not want.
- 7. Do I have to go to court?
No. Collaborative Law is really an alternative to going to court. All meetings of parties and professionals usually take place in a professional’s office. If agreement is reached, the lawyers can prepare and file the legal documents without you having to go to court.
- 8. Will Collaborative Law allow us to obtain an amicable divorce?
In general, people find that Collaborative Law (and Mediation) offer much better processes for helping people maintain respect and dignity despite the difficulties of divorcing. The whole process is geared toward this goal, and the professionals are supporting families in this effort.
That does not mean Collaborative Law will be free of conflict. The parties and lawyers need to be realistic but respectful. The parties have brought conflict with them, and there are always challenges to creating a mutually acceptable settlement agreement. Collaborative Law offers the parties and lawyers a framework for reducing conflict and maximizing cooperation so they can successfully achieve agreement.
- 9. Is Collaborative Law faster? Less expensive?
Collaborative Law is generally faster and less expensive than litigation, and not as fast or as inexpensive as Mediation.
The reasons are simple. In Mediation there is usually one active professional (with lawyers may consulting on the side). In Collaborative Law there are two lawyers who are present at all stages of the process. And in Litigation there are two lawyers who have to follow procedural and evidentiary rules and prepare the case for trial, even if most cases settle before trial.
But these are general rules of thumb and really depend on many factors.
- 10. Should I choose Collaborative Law?
In general, if the following values are important to you, you will probably be interested considering the Collaborative Law process.
- I want to maintain respectful communications with my spouse or partner, despite the problems we are having
- I want to keep the needs of our children as a top priority
- I am willing to listen to the needs of my spouse/partner; at the same time, I will be willing to voice my own needs and concerns.
- I will do my best to keep an open mind so that we can work creatively and cooperatively to find an agreement that best satisfies all our needs and issues.
- I know it is important to engage in the process of creating a solid plan for the future, even though that might be difficult with the emotions I am experiencing.
- I know it is important to handle my difficult emotions skillfully. I am willing to get help if needed.
- I agree to behave ethically toward my spouse/partner because that is the type of person I wish to be at all times.
- I choose to maintain control of the divorce/separation process with my spouse/partner. I do not want to turn the big decisions in my life over to the courts.
- I want the assistance of a lawyer to helping me through the process and to negotiate a settlement agreement.
This last factor is the biggest difference between choosing Mediation or Collaborative Law. All the other factors apply to both processes, and distinguish both processes from Family Law Litigation.
The best process fit for you and your family depends on many factors. Please consult a professional who will give you non-biased, straight advice about the best process fit.