Collaborative Practice and Divorce
Divorce can be a very dark time for couples and families, as it results in the physical and emotional separation of not only people, but also objects and attachments that represent the ending of a relationship. Such separation is a process, not an epiphany, and the process can happen through various means, including mediation or litigation, with disparate results. Through collaborative practice and representation in the collaborative divorce process, we provide an arena in which conflicting parties can work together in a positive environment to reach solid, workable, beneficial agreements. Such agreements are binding and enforceable, yet the collaborative process generally does not lead to the animosity and bitterness, or the large legal bills, which are often the byproducts of lengthy, contentious litigation.
Elements of Collaborative Practice
Collaborative divorce is a private, confidential process in which the separating parties and their attorneys commit to resolving a dispute using a cooperative rather than an adversarial approach. During the collaboration, attorneys advocate on behalf of their clients, but with an emphasis on honesty, cooperation, and integrity. In order to show the parties' commitment to conducting an amicable proceeding and reaching a satisfactory result, the parties and counsel agree in writing that the matter will be resolved outside of court.
If court intervention becomes necessary during the collaborative divorce process, both collaborative attorneys are disqualified from representing either spouse. As Partner Barbara Aaron explained in her article Divorce, Collaborative Style, "the reason for this prohibition is to encourage participants to 'stay at the table,' even when it's difficult."
Collaborative practice is different than mediation because in collaborative proceedings, each party's attorney acts as his or her advocate, while simultaneously working with the other party and professionals to reach an equitable settlement. With mediation, attorneys act as impartial experts who work to frame objective solutions that benefit both parties. Our attorneys have extensive experience conducting both collaborative practice and mediation proceedings, and we can help you decide which form of alternative dispute resolution fits your immediate situation and future goals. We individually tailor services to meet our clients' expectations and unique relationships, and we also bring in appropriate professionals, such as divorce coaches, financial specialists, and childcare experts, to address any particular family needs and individual circumstances.
Benefits of Collaborative Practice
Not only do parties avoid contentious litigation when they decide to use collaborative methods to settle disputes, they also create mutually beneficial and lasting agreements because they are bound to honestly and openly share information. Further, collaborative divorces are less likely to give rise to post-divorce disputes regarding such issues as financial support, custody, and property distribution. Because both parties worked together to resolve such issues, they are more likely to comply with the terms of the divorce agreement.