Collaborative Practice provides you and your spouse the opportunity to work with attorneys specially trained to help you to resolve issues and to reach agreement without going to court. You may wish also to consider the Interdisciplinary Collaborative Divorce model. In addition to your attorney, you would also have the resources of an interdisciplinary team: a coach who is a mental health professional to help you with effective negotiation through the emotionally thorny issues; a child psychologist who will speak to your children, and help bring their needs to the table by sharing their concerns, and provide some guidance on the issues involving the parenting plan; and a financial professional chosen to help collect the financial data and to provide different financial packages and outcomes. This process works very efficiently and, despite the team approach, you may find it to be an economically efficient way to work through the issues you need to address before you can reach agreement.
In either approach to the Collaborative Divorce, your attorney is your ally, your advocate, counselor and consultant, specially trained to work effectively in negotiating in a high-conflict environment (mediation and negotiation skills), and is there with you to negotiate with your spouse and his or her attorney. What helps to drive the Collaborative process to a successful conclusion is the four-way agreement that requires the attorneys to withdraw if either spouse goes to court, the specific skills, experience and training of the attorneys (and other professionals, if you choose the Interdisciplinary Collaborative Practice), and the efforts that are made to keep the atmosphere cordial, respectful, and conducive to effective negotiations even through contentious issues. For these reasons, the method might work very well for a couple who have not communicated well in the past, and might also provide a great lesson in how to communicate effectively after the divorce in order to resolve any issues that may come up in the future.
Marcia Smithen Cohen is a New York City lawyer who focuses her practice exclusively on out-of-court divorce cases (through Mediation and through the two Collaborative Divorce models).