Collaborative law is a way of getting a divorce without going to court. The focus is on finding solutions, not assigning blame—a common occurrence in traditional divorce litigation.
The approach is gaining in popularity, according to Carol Patinkin, executive director of The Lilac Tree: Resources for Divorcing Women, an Evanston-based nonprofit serving women throughout the northern suburbs.
“There’s definitely more interest in alternative dispute resolution approaches, including collaborative divorce. It is now regularly discussed as one of the options available for women considering divorce,” Patinkin says.
Here’s how it works:
The couple each hires a collaborative law attorney, who has been trained in mediation and conflict resolution. After each person’s initial consultation with his or her respective attorney, the divorcing couple and attorneys meet together as a team.
The parties set the agenda and work toward a fair settlement that is uniquely designed to meet their family’s needs.
The process minimizes conflict and maximizes cooperation throughout the process and offers these benefits:
- It’s less stressful because the couple determines their own settlement; there aren’t court dates, adjournments or delays. The only court appearance required is on the day of the divorce when the judge is presented with a copy of the agreement.
- It’s child-focused, with parents working together to make decisions based on the best interest of their children.
- It can be quicker and cheaper.
Throughout the process, additional team members are added as needed, including:
- Divorce coaches who help the couple stay centered during this emotional time.
- Certified divorce financial planners, who prepare a statement of assets and debts and prepare a future financial plan. They are neutral because the report is shared.
- Child representatives who give children a voice and help parents understand their needs.
If you decide that collaborative divorce might work for you, keep in mind that if an agreement isn’t reached or if one of the parties institutes legal proceedings, the attorneys will no longer provide representation and the process will start over.