What is collaborative law?

Collaborative law is an alternative option to mediation and litigation that takes a different approach to divorce or other family law matters. Much like mediation, collaborative law is a confidential process that takes place outside of the courtroom. However, collaborative law differs from mediation and litigation in that each party has an attorney who provides them with independent advice and assists the client in advocating during negotiations what is important to their respective client.

In collaborative law, the focus is an agreed-upon settlement that would feel fair and equitable to both parties. The settlement is reached through the team efforts of the attorneys and their clients as they define the specifics of the agreement that the parties are trying to reach. In a divorce proceeding, the agreement would be presented to the court for approval and no other court appearances would be required.

Collaborative law is well suited for adversarial, complex and/or difficult cases, as well as amicable divorces and family law matters. For instance, perceived imbalances in power, parenting and child care approaches and disputes, challenging asset valuations and divisions, business buyouts and other similar situations could greatly benefit from the collaborative law process. If you are seeking more control over the process and the ultimate outcome of your divorce or family law matter, you should consider the collaborative law process.

Working collaboratively has other far-reaching benefits such as helping to facilitate a coparenting relationship with your spouse after the divorce; maintaining relationships with mutual friends, extended family, and business or community connection that you do not wish to severe or divide as a result of the divorce proceedings or family law dispute. You may want to go your separate ways, but you may wish to do so through a more positive approach focused on collaboration rather than conflict.

Does a collaborative law attorney have special training and, if so, what is that training?

Attorney Allen has taken a training course in collaborative law, which focused on the specifics of the collaborative law process and negotiations. Attorney Allen is also a trained mediator and has extensive litigation experience.

Is collaborative law different from litigation or mediation? How is collaborative law different?

Unlike mediation or litigation, in collaborative law, both parties have attorneys who advocate for their respective clients and their clients’ respective interests. A neutral party called a “case facilitator” may also be a part of the collaborative law process. The case facilitator’s primary function is to facilitate effective communications during collaborative law sessions, which can help to reduce the cost by keeping the case focused and moving forward.

The collaborative law process provides for a high degree of successful resolution because the parties and their attorneys all agree not to go to court, except for a final hearing to present their global settlement to the court for approval or for any agreed-upon matters. If the collaborative law process breaks down, their respective attorneys will assist the parties in transitioning to litigation counsel. However, in the collaborative law process, the parties, their attorneys and the case facilitator all have a shared commitment to resolving issues by agreement.

What can we expect during the collaborative law process?

The collaborative law process fosters open dialogue between the clients, their attorneys and, sometimes, a case facilitator, all working collaboratively toward a global resolution of the issues. Everyone involved in the collaborative law process has a voice in creating agendas for future collaborative law sessions, scheduling collaborative law sessions, selecting other professionals (such as business valuators, actuaries and appraisers) to assist during the collaborative law process and deciding what documents should be exchanged and when they will be exchanged.

Each collaborative law session may be intended to focus on only one issue, such as a parenting plan, or it may focus on multiple issues, based upon the previously discussed agenda. The number of collaborative law sessions required is based upon the complexity of the issues and the number of issues attendant to a case.

Why is there a case facilitator or a "coach?"

A neutral party called a “case facilitator” or a “coach” may also be a part of the collaborative law process. Their primary function is to facilitate effective communications during collaborative law sessions, which can help to reduce the cost by keeping the case focused and moving forward. Their focus is on effectively moving the parties through emotionally charged issues that may otherwise be a roadblock to the process of effective communication, successful negotiation and final resolution.

What if we need the help of other professionals?

Other professionals, such as business valuators, appraisers, brokers, pension experts, or other financial experts, may be required during the collaborative law process. During mediation and litigation, these sorts of professionals may also be required; however, until mediation and litigation, during the collaborative law process, these professionals are all joint professionals. By jointly utilizing the services of other professionals during the collaborative law process, the costs and time are reduced and the professional becomes another useful neutral party who can jointly assist the parties in understanding and gathering information necessary to bring the matter to a final global resolution.

How much does the collaborative law process cost?

As with any other legal proceedings, the cost of the collaborative law process can vary. Much like in mediation and litigation, the cost is contingent upon the complexity of the issues, the number of unresolved issues and the dynamics of the parties. In the collaborative law process, the clients are able to think about their costs and determine what is necessary in their case, thereby having some control over the costs of the process.

How long does the collaborative law process take?

Like mediation, the collaborative law process takes approximately six months. While the collaborative law process may potentially take more or less time, most litigated cases take much longer.

How do I decide between the collaborative law process and some other process?

In considering collaborative law, mediation or litigation, you should choose the process that best suits your goals, your needs and the needs of your family, keeping in mind your desired results. Attorney Allen will discuss these options with you to facilitate making that decision.

When you meet with attorney Helen Allen for your initial consultation, she will obtain information from you regarding your marriage or other family law issues, your goals, interests, concerns and your desired results. She will also discuss with you your options, including what process options are available to you. She will answer any questions or concerns that you have so that you have all of the information available to you to make an informed decision as to whether or not the collaborative law process is right for you.

How can I get the other party to enter into the collaborative law process?

Our website has a lot of information regarding collaborative law, mediation and litigation that you may wish to share with the other party. We will also provide you with additional information about the collaborative law process during your initial consultation with attorney Allen. We can also offer you information that you can provide to the other party, including how they may find a collaboratively trained attorney.