Collaborative Practice is a method of resolving disputes where participants work with a team of professionals to craft their own agreements. Clients work together in a respectful way, keeping in mind the importance of protecting from conflict their children and other involved people. Decisions are made by the participants without the involvement of a judge or other decision maker.
Collaborative Law, Collaborative Practice, Collaborative Process, and Collaborative Divorce are terms often used interchangeably. While "Collaborative Divorce" refers to resolution of particular types of disputes (divorce and domestic partnerships), the other terms can also apply to disputes involving employment law, probate law, construction law, real property law, and other civil law areas where the participants are likely to have continuing relationships after the current conflict has been resolved.
All of our member groups are committed to the Collaborative Process, an approach to solving problems by reaching mutually agreeable solutions. Clients and professionals work together, respectfully and in good faith, to gather the information needed to reach an agreement. The goal is a win/win situation for all participants.
Typically clients and professionals meet together to plan for information gathering, make interim arrangements, and discuss issues. A team will be assembled based on the participants’ needs and can include attorneys, communications coaches and child specialists (both roles are filled by mental health specialists), financial experts, and other professionals as needed. Information gathered will be shared with the other clients and team members in order to clarify each participant’s interests and stimulate ideas for possible solutions. All communications made during the Collaborative Process will remain confidential and will not be used as evidence if the case later goes to court.
A settlement which meets the approval of all clients can then be fashioned. This method of handling conflict is designed to minimize hostility and allow the participants the possibility of a cordial relationship in the future.
One of the essential elements of the Collaborative Process as it has been applied for the last twenty years to divorces and domestic partnerships is that all clients and collaborative professionals agree at the outset that the case will be settled, not contested. If the case cannot be settled, the attorneys and other professionals must withdraw, and the attorneys will assist the participants in finding new attorneys to help them settle the case through the traditional court system. Even in these cases some groundwork will have been laid for a more effective way of clients working together in the future.