When To Choose Collaborative Law

There are many reasons to look into collaborative law to avoid adversarial, combative divorce proceedings, including saving money, keeping things amicable, and avoiding court appearances. Collaborative law is also referred to as collaborative family law or collaborative divorce, and refers to a situation wherein both parties agree to proceed without court involvement. The distinctive feature of collaborative law is that the parties to the collaborative process agree in advance that their counsel will be disqualified from representing them in court if the matter they have submitted to the process is not completely resolved by agreement. Consequently, collaborative lawyers are hired for the limited purpose of acting as advocates and counselors during the negotiation process and do not represent their clients in court. Collaborative practices can be used in pre-marital and post-marital contracts, divorce, conservatorship, and other family law-related situations.

The collaborative law process begins with both parties signing an agreement to forgo traditional litigation and attempt to reach an amicable settlement outside of a court, which indicates a desire for civility and to work through issues respectfully, as well as a commitment to not withhold pertinent information. Collaborative law is not a good choice for “messy” divorces or situations where the divorcing parties do not agree, are not committed to working together, or are unable do so without anger or bitterness. A family law attorney can advise you as to whether or not collaborative law is appropriate for your situation.

Collaborative law in divorce cases is often less expensive than traditional adversarial litigation. The process generally begins with an informal meeting with a lawyer or lawyers present, and the focus of the meeting is to provide complete and accurate information that impacts the divorce, including financial statements, discussion of the events that prompted the divorce, and facts regarding the care and treatment of children. Providing complete and unbiased information is vital to arriving at a settlement that best serves all parties. There are typically five to eight subsequent meetings held, which allows couples ample time to negotiate with each other. The length of these meetings can vary, but two to three hours is normal.

A cooperative environment should not be regarded as unfairly concession-driven, as many lawyers believe that collaborative divorce proceedings result in settlements that are more fair and equitable. Many couples feel that it is important to remain civil and respectful after divorce, particularly if there are children involved, and cooperation between divorcing parties is believed to set a better example for children and cause less emotional upheaval for everyone involved. Collaborative law allows for respectful disagreement that is fact-based rather than emotionally charged, which can result in more calm reasoning and less reactionary decision making. By avoiding court appearances that must be scheduled and adhered to, the process can also be completed in much less time.

Collaborative law is most often used in the context of dissolving marriages or other domestic partnerships, but it is not restricted to divorce. Prenuptial agreements are often seen as adversarial or combative, and because couples want to begin their married lives amicably, collaborative law can be a good choice for outlining prenuptial agreements smoothly. Working together to create a premarital contract displays mutual trust and respect between parties, which is particularly important for spouses who are beginning a second marriage where children from previous relationships are included. Working together and being specific about expectations can strengthen bonds between family members and lay a solid foundation for a successfully blended family structure.

A lawyer with experience in collaborative family law can be a powerful ally, whether or not you decide that collaborative law is right for your situation. The right attorney can advise you of your options, help you understand the strengths and caveats of the collaborative process, and aid you in making decisions that will lead you to the outcome you want. Consulting with a family law attorney who specializes in collaborative law should be your first step before proceeding with any aspect of litigation, so if you are in need of legal advise in this matter, contact an attorney at Espronceda Law today.

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