Collaborative Law: A Different Way to Divorce

on Aug 6, 2017 in Divorce

Collaborative law provides a means of divorce very different for traditional divorce.  While collaborative law is not for every divorcing couple, many couples find collaborative law suits their specific situation.

What is Collaborative Law?

As the term suggests, collaborative law relies on the collaboration of the parties, achieving a desired legal result without litigation.  While court proceedings are inherently adversarial, collaborative law occurs in conference rooms, not courtrooms.

How Collaborative Law Works in a Divorce

In a collaborative divorce proceeding, the parties each retain their own attorney specifically trained in effective collaborative law strategies and experienced in divorce law.  The attorneys, along with their clients, meet several times to discuss as a group the following topics:

  • Areas of agreement;
  • Areas of disagreement;
  • Goals of the parties;
  • Opportunities to engage in meaningful compromise.

All discussions occur with an eye towards resolving the divorce issues together.  Collaboration allows parties to reach resolution of issues often more quickly than through litigation.  Additionally, collaboration of the parties tends to lead to agreements the parties find more satisfactory than division of property and assignment of parenting time by a judge after a trial.  While divorcing couples have the option of leaving important, life impacting decisions to a judge, study after study finds couples report more satisfaction with results they had a hand in crafting.

Collaborative divorce starts with the premise all parties desire a peaceful resolution to the issues at hand.  The involvement of lawyers experienced in collaborative law provides several benefits.  First, the lawyers understand family law and protect their clients’ interests while working out the details of the divorce.  Second, the lawyers’ special training in collaborative law results in creative, problem-solving approaches.  Sometimes, collaborative divorce requires thinking “outside the box.”

Assurances Collaborative Law Provides

In the state of Maryland, attorneys practicing collaborative law in divorce proceedings commit to seeking peaceful resolutions to the issues.  During the pendency of a collaborative divorce, the parties agree not to resort to contested litigation.  Additionally, the lawyers hired to handle a collaborative divorce agree not to resort to litigation at all during the case.  If the parties are unable to reach agreement, and the case does, in fact, result in litigation, the parties must retain new lawyers for litigation.  This model is intentionally designed to encourage resolution between the parties, as well as remove any possible incentive, by the parties or their lawyers, to threaten litigation to obtain the “upper hand.”

Other Parties Who May Become Involved in a Collaborative Divorce

Collaborative law commonly involves other neutral professionals to assist in the divorce process.  A team of interdisciplinary professionals provide insight and assistance regarding the specific issues presented in a given collaborative law divorce.  Each member of the interdisciplinary team is also trained on collaborative law divorce.  With families who have children at home, a child specialist may provide assistance.  Parties may choose a financial consultant, or independent accountant, who reviews current financial assets and needs, as well as assisting in future planning.  Future planning could include considerations regarding a college fund for the children, retirement plans, or any other financial need which requires addressing.  Depending on the situation, a real estate appraiser, a business evaluator, or an expert in retirement issues may be retained to sort out important issues.

Many couples find a mental health coach of assistance during a collaborative law divorce.  Some couples choose to retain a single mental health coach.  Other couples choose to retain different mental health coaches.  Statistics establish divorce as one of the most stressful events one experiences.   Having a mental health coach assists in the process of “uncoupling” as well as in determining a path forward.  Particularly for couples with children, who remain tied after the divorce due to their shared interest in their children, a mental health coach provides insight and experience to assist divorcing couples redefine their relationship.

These professionals bring clarity to situations, which furthers the goal of peaceful resolution of the issues in the divorce.

Types of Cases Where Collaboration May Not Be the Best Option

Divorces don’t just involve legal proceedings, they involve people.  Different people experience different circumstances.  Some of these circumstances lessen the likelihood a collaborative divorce is right for their situation.  For example, if your case involves allegations of child abuse, sexual abuse, domestic violence, or protracted conflict where one or both parties aren’t motivated to engage in conflict resolution, collaborative divorce may not be best for your situation.

How Do I Know if Collaborative Divorce Might Be Right for Me?

The best way to determine whether a collaborative divorce is right for you is to meet with an attorney well versed in both traditional family law practice and experienced in collaborative divorce.  The collaborative law training provided to collaborative law attorneys includes training on identifying factors which contribute to the likelihood of success of a collaborative approach to divorce.  While there are many benefits to a collaborative divorce, not everyone’s situation fits into a single mold.  A qualified attorney discusses your particular situation and evaluates the most appropriate approach given your circumstances.

If You are Considering a Divorce

If you are considering a divorce, talking to a family law attorney specially trained in collaborative law provides insight into all alternatives available to you.  At Fait & DiLima, Marjorie DiLima has the special training required to participate in collaborative law divorces.  She is a member of the Collaborative Divorce Association (CDA) and Collaborative Dispute Resolution Professionals (CDRP).  The entire team at Fait & DiLima focus exclusively on family law issues.  With over 50 years of combined family law experience, our team of professionals will guide you towards a divorce resolution suitable to your special needs and circumstances.


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