Collaborative law, also known as collaborative practice, divorce or family law, is a legal process enabling couples who have decided to separate or end their marriage to work with their lawyers and, on occasion, other family professionals in order to avoid the uncertain outcome of court and to achieve a settlement that best meets the specific needs of both parties and their children without the underlying threat of litigation. The process allows parties to have a fair settlement.
The voluntary process is initiated when the couple signs a contract (a “participation agreement”) binding each other to the process and disqualifying their respective lawyer’s right to represent either one in any future family-related litigation.
The collaborative process can be used to facilitate a broad range of other family issues, including disputes between parents and the drawing up of pre and post-marital contracts. As the traditional method of drawing up pre-marital contracts is oppositional, many couples prefer to begin their married life with documents drawn up consensually and mutually.
Where collaborative law really excels is in resolving child custody and parenting issues. Putting the focus on positive outcomes for the children requires that the parties “check their baggage at the door.” In other words, put the children’s best interest’s first. One does not stop being a parent after a divorce. Collaborating on custody and parenting issues has the benefit of reducing conflict and enhancing the children’s well-being.
Collaborative law processes also have the added benefit of being cost efficient for the involved parties. As the necessary tasks in the collaborative model are assigned to specialist professionals without duplication of effort, cost savings are realized.