Collaborative law is a process used to resolve legal issues without going to court. It is especially effective in family law cases involving children or long-term marriages in which the spouses need to maintain an ongoing relationship after the case is over. Probate disputes, business disputes and partnership negotiations also benefit from collaborative law because it cultivates positive future communications and relations.
In traditional litigation, each party prepares a case to persuade the judge that only his or her view should win. Lawyers aim to make the most out of the worst things about the other party. Judges have the burden of making decisions about children, property and money. Collaborative law offers an alternative to the adversarial process of litigation.
Resolving a case through collaborative law involves a team that comprises the parties, their respective lawyers, a communications coach and a financial neutral. The team engages in a series of settlement meetings in which the parties agree to abide by rules of communication. The parties and their attorneys are allowed to speak freely to each other while in the meetings. The communications coach helps control and monitor emotions and facilitate full expression of the parties' needs and interests. The financial neutral helps gather financial information and plan options for each party's financial future. If other experts are needed, the parties agree to hire one expert, rather than competing experts. The meetings remain confidential to ensure open and efficient communication.
Collaborative law works, even in high-conflict cases, because the professionals involved are trained in interest-based problem solving. Each party’s case is considered over time in an environment where each party has an advocate.
The collaborative process is not necessarily an easy way to settle a divorce or other conflict; however, collaborative negotiations might produce a better result.
Last updated: Sept. 26, 2008