What is Collaborative Law and what are the advantages and disadvantages?

According to the IACP website, Collaborative Practice has three key elements: (1) The voluntary and free exchange of information; (2) The pledge not to litigate (go to court) and withdrawal of both attorneys and other team professionals if either party litigates; and (3) A commitment to respect for both parties’ shared goals.

Lawyers who practice Collaborative Law in the family law arena describe  the process as the “no-court” divorce or the “peaceful divorce”.  Most agreements do not even allow you to file your Petition for Divorce during the process.  The process uses your attorney along with other professionals, such as coaches, child specialists and financial specialists to help you settle your case (in theory).   The key element of collaborative law that is completely different than a “standard” divorce process is “The pledge not to litigate (go to court) and withdrawal of both attorneys and other team professionals if either party litigates“.   Please pay attention to that key element when making your decision to go down the Collaborative path.

I have done the training in Collaborative Law and am happy to participate in the process if that is your choice.  The bulk of my practice, however, is more traditional divorce or mediation. In my traditional divorce cases I believe that more than 90% are settled out of court.  The various methods used in the  Collaborative divorce process are also used in the traditional divorce. We can hire mediators, coaches, financial planners and the like if the parties agree to do so. The key difference in the traditional divorce setting is that if I cannot resolve your case I will go to court with you and try your case.  I will be with you from start to finish. If the Collaborative practitioner fails to resolve their cases, they have the luxury of withdrawing as your counsel. I get those cases on occasion.  When that happens, we are at the beginning.  Petition has not been filed, no agreements have been reached, and they are starting over. I and most “standard” family law attorneys already have “a commitment to respecting both parties’ shared goals” and frequently agree to “the voluntary and free exchange of information”.  That is not unique to a collaborative process.  It sounds good perhaps, but it is form over substance in my opinion.  I respect the process and the many excellent attorney’s who choose this as their practice area and would love to work with you in that arena if that is your choice.   Just be informed about the process when you choose that path.