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" It's My Job To Fight So You Don't Have To!"
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  What is Collaborative Law?

Collaborative Law is a name given to an attitude toward resolving legal disputes and the policies and practices that put that attitude into
action. You won't find collaborative law in the statutes or administrative regulations but you will find it in the professionalism and integrity of those who practice law.

What is the Collaborative Law attitude?

The basic attitude marking collaborative law is of solving the problem, not fighting the fight. Simply stated, it is treating the process as a way to "trouble shoot and problem solve" rather than to fight and win. Some people look upon the civil justice system as a place to resolve a dispute they have with another. Collaborative law is what they're looking for.

What areas of the Law are prime for Collaborative Law?

While many areas of the law are good candidates for Collaborative Law, it is most commonly, at this time, used in Family Law cases.

Why should retaining Collaborative Lawyers should be considered?

             This process is generally less costly and time-consuming than litigation.
             You are a vital part of the settlement team.
             All parties are supported by their lawyers and yet they work cooperatively with the other                parties and their lawyer(s) in resolving the issues.
             The process is much less fear and anxiety producing than utilizing Court proceedings or                the threat of such proceedings.
             Everyone can focus on settlement.
             The possibility exists that the participants can create a climate that facilitates "win-win"                settlements.
             The proceeding is much less time consuming. It can be finalized within a short time                following the parties reaching agreement, rather than getting bogged down for many                months waiting for a court date.
             You control the proceedings - your destiny is in your hands rather than In the hands of a                third party (the courts).

How does Collaborative Law work?                  back to the top

While no two situations are alike, the emphasis in the approach is to find a way in which the lawyers can work with the parties that will achieve a satisfactory settlement in an efficient, cooperative manner. This might include "four-way" settlement conferences where the parties meet with their collaborative lawyers to work on a settlement. Basically, however, your collaborative lawyers should be committed to finding ways to achieve settlement that will work best in your case. Their philosophy is that as much effort should be exerted toward settlement as is traditionally spent in preparation for and conducting a trial.

What is the difference between Collaborative Law and mediation?

In mediation, there is one "neutral" who helps the disputing parties try to settle their case. The mediator cannot give either party legal advice, and cannot help either side advocate its position. If one side or the other becomes unreasonable or stubborn, or lacks negotiating skill, or is emotionally distraught, the mediation can become unbalanced, and if the mediator tries to deal with the problem, the mediator is often seen by one side or the other as biased, whether or not that is so. If the mediator does not find a way to deal with the problem, the mediation can break down, or the agreement that results can be unfair.

Collaborative Law was designed to deal more effectively with all these problems, while maintaining the same absolute commitment to settlement as the sole agenda. Each side has quality legal advice and advocacy built in at all times during the process. Even if one side or the other lacks negotiating skill or financial understanding, or is emotionally upset or angry, the playing field is leveled by the presence of the skilled advocates. It is the job of the lawyers to work with their own clients if the clients are being unreasonable, to make sure that the process stays positive and productive.

What Types of Family Law disputes can be resolved with Collaborative Law?

Collaborative law can be used for any dispute. It has been used the most often in the family law arena to resolve disputes related to:

             Divorce, Legal Separation or Annulment
             Child Custody/Parenting Plans
             Visitation and Visitation Disputes
             Spousal Maintenance/Alimony
             Child Support, Daycare Costs and College Tuition
             Valuing Assets
             Division of Property
             Division of Debt
             Tax Issues
             Paternity Issues
             Break-up of Same Sex Partnerships

How do I begin the process?                  back to the top

It takes two willing participants to effectively use the collaborative law process. Since Collaborative law is a relatively new process, your spouse may be reluctant to agree without proper education regarding the benefits of the process.

Schedule a meeting with your spouse to discuss Collaborative Family Law and share the information from this Web site. If you are currently unable to meet with your spouse to discuss the matter, present the proposal to use collaborative law in written form.
Review and choose from the list of dedicated collaborative law attorneys practicing law in your state.
Meet with your attorney to discuss your case and the details of the process.
Most collaborative law divorces begin with a meeting between counsel and parties to sign a joint collaborative law agreement.

What kind of information and documents are available in the Collaborative Law negotiations?
Both sides sign a binding agreement to disclose all documents and information that relate to the issues, early and fully and voluntarily. "Hide the ball" and stonewalling are not permitted.

What happens if one side or the other does play "hide the ball," or is dishonest in some way, or misuses the Collaborative Law process to take advantage of the other party?

That can happen. It also can and does happen in conventional legal representation. What's different about collaborative law is that the collaborative agreement requires a lawyer to withdraw if his/her client is being less than fully honest, or participating in the full good faith.

For instance, if documents are altered or withheld, or if a client is deliberately delaying matters for economic or other gain, the lawyers have promised in advance that they will withdraw and will not continue to represent the client. The same is true if the client fails to keep agreements made during the course of negotiations.                   back to the top