The collaborative-law process is a relatively new option for spouses to work out the terms of their divorce outside of court in a friendly, low-stress atmosphere with their attorneys’ help. The collaborative process was the brain-child of an attorney who was worn out with the adversarial nature of litigated divorces and wanted to find an easier way for attorneys to help their clients come to an agreement about the terms of their divorce. Texas was the first state to legalize the collaborative-law process. Since then, thirty-four other states have followed suit.
Collaborative law involves you, your spouse, and your respective attorneys (who must be trained in the collaborative-law process) sitting down together to negotiate, focusing on the future, not the past. Like mediation, collaborative law emphasizes problem-solving. However, unlike mediation, no neutral third party facilitates your discussions.
If the collaborative process breaks down, your attorneys may suggest that you and your spouse try mediation. But because collaborative-law attorneys have pledged not to take a divorce case to trial, if you refuse mediation or if you give mediation a try and it doesn’t work, and you decide that your only option is to go to trial, you and your spouse must hire new attorneys, which means that you go back to square one.
Here are some important benefits to using the collaborative-law process:
Assuming that your state recognizes the collaborative-law process, you can find an attorney who uses this method by contacting your local or state bar association or by going online to find out whether your state has a collaborative-law institute. If it does, the institute may provide referrals.
John Ventura is a bestselling author, attorney, and a national authority on consumer financial and legal problems. Mary Reed is the founder of Mary Reed Public Relations. This answer has been excerpted from their book Divorce for Dummies (Second Edition, Wiley Publishing, @ 2005). This material is used by permission of John Wiley & Sons, Inc. The book is available at Amazon.com or www.wiley.com.