WHAT is Collaborative Divorce?
Collaborative divorce or collaborative family law is a voluntary and private dispute resolution process in which the separating couple makes a commitment to settle their family law matter outside of court by working cooperatively. Collaborative Family Law approaches divorce holistically by addressing the financial, emotional, and legal issues that impact a family. Each person must focus on what is fair and in the best interests of the family, rather than on winning.
In collaborative divorce, the separating couple agrees to:
- communicate in a respectful and open manner;
- exchange information in good faith and to provide complete and accurate disclosure;
- maintain the confidentiality of the process;
- resolve issues constructively and in a non-adversarial manner;
- engage in non-positional negotiation, focusing on both parties’ interests.
- find mutually acceptable solutions that work for the family as a whole; and
- not litigate in court.
Collaborative family law is a team-based and interdisciplinary approach. The divorcing couple and their family lawyers work together in negotiation meetings called four-way meetings. Unlike the traditional court-based approach to divorce, in collaborative divorce the divorce lawyers and separating couple work together with the objective of reaching a fair and durable settlement.
While the collaborative family law process always includes collaborative lawyers, it often includes other professionals as part of the team. This can include financial specialists (accountants), mental health professionals (also known as “divorce coaches”), child specialists, and others.
The defining element of the collaborative process is the Participation Agreement. After each person retains a certified collaborative lawyer, they sign a Participation Agreement to enter the process. This agreement contains a “disqualification clause” that says that if either party commences litigation in court, the collaborative process will end and the family lawyers can no longer represent their clients. This means that both separating spouses must hire new lawyers and it acts as a deterrent to quitting the collaborative divorce process.
The success rate of the collaborative process is very high. It has been estimated that approximately 92-95% of all collaborative law matters are resolved outside of court. Removing the option of litigation in divorce court allows the separating spouses to work cooperatively and to retain control over the outcome of their divorce.