Collaborative Family Law

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The Collaborative Law Model

Collaborative Divorce is a non-adversarial, respectful process for resolving issues related to separation. It is private, flexible and efficient, and it’s less destructive and costly than litigation. It’s a way for spouses to find solutions that are specially tailored to the needs of their family. Parents often find that participating in this process lays the groundwork for better communication and cooperation in raising their children. The Collaborative Process is not just for couples who are getting along; it also works when spouses have very different priorities, have difficulty communicating, or are in significant emotional pain.

The primary features of the Collaborative Divorce process are:

  • Spouses pledge to negotiate in good faith toward a mutually agreeable resolution
  • Spouses agree to openly share all relevant information
  • Each spouse is represented by an attorney specially trained in the Collaborative process
  • Options are explored and decisions are made in joint meetings of both spouses and attorneys
  • Negotiation is interest-based rather than position-based
  • Experts, if needed, are hired by the spouses jointly (such as financial or parenting experts)
  • The attorneys may not represent their respective clients in litigation if an agreement is not reached

Collaborative Divorce may be right for you if you:

  • Value respectful communication, even when you and your spouse disagree
  • Believe your children’s needs are one of the highest priorities in the divorce process
  • Can commit to honest and open communication and full disclosure of all relevant information and documents
  • Recognize that both your and your spouse’s needs and interests must be considered and addressed in reaching an agreement
  • Would like to minimize destructive conflict, even though you have differences with your spouse
  • Want to retain more control over the process and the solution, rather than have the court decide

How is Collaborative Divorce different from Mediation?

Mediation involves the use of a neutral facilitator (the mediator), who assists the couple in their negotiations. In Collaborative Divorce there is no neutral party, but both attorneys assist in the negotiations. The couple can have their attorneys present during mediation or not (there are advantages and disadvantages with each approach), while parties always have their own attorney in Collaborative Practice. Mediation can involve interest-based or position-based bargaining, or both, whereas Collaborative Divorce employs primarily interest-based negotiation. Mediation can take place with both parties in the same room or in separate rooms, with the mediator meeting alternately with each spouse; in Collaborative practice, discussions of options and negotiation of specific proposals occurs in the presence of both spouses and both attorneys.

Both Julie Woodmansee and Barbara Szombatfalvy have been specially trained in the collaborative law model and can discuss whether this approach is right for you.

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