Collaborative family law is a process in which attorneys whose express goal is to settle their divorce out of court represent both spouses. They accomplish this by reaching an agreement that addresses the concerns of both parties and that both parties believe is reasonably fair.
In other words:
- Both parties retain lawyers committed to the process of collaborative family law.
- Both parties and attorneys commit themselves to settling the case without court or the threat of going to court.
- Each party and his or her attorney sign a “Participation Agreement” which outlines the obligations and responsibilities of each towards the process.
- The goal is to reach a resolution that meets the needs and concerns of the parties in an equitable manner.
- Parenting issues are discussed/negotiated in a way that protects the children from the dispute.
- Should the parties require the services of an accountant, mental health professional, or other experts, both parties agree on one neutral expert to be used to help facilitate the particular issue at hand.
- Both parties will provide all financial information accurately and thoroughly.
The parties expressly decide to work together with their attorney to resolve their issues without extensive, expensive, and often emotionally draining litigation. The collaborative attorney will no longer continue working on the case if litigation is the plan. The idea behind this method is to get both parties looking at the case in a problem-solving approach, rather than a “tug of war” approach, and to work out a plan that will create a win-win situation. This way, the parties can move on without the increased hostility that often occurs in litigated disputes.
Should either party decide to use the court to resolve the case, the collaborative process is terminated, and each party must obtain new counsel to go forward in the court system. This is a key element of the collaborative process and provides the clients and counsel with the mental commitment to resolve the case without litigation.
Arlene Richman has a practice in Hollywood and Aventura. She is also a certified family mediator and is on the executive committee of the Collaborative Family Lawyers of South Florida.
Iris M. Bass has a practice in Fort Lauderdale. She is also a certified family mediator and current president of the Collaborative Family Lawyers of South Florida.