Frequently Asked Questions
What other sources can I use to get a better understanding of Collaborative Practice and Collaborative Law?
What is Collaborative Practice for a Collaborative Divorce?
When a marriage is ending, does the divorce have to be a lengthy and costly traditional or courtroom process? More and more divorcing couples, attorneys, mental health professionals, and financial specialists believe there is a better way.
Collaborative Practice is a unique and different way to divorce or to deal with other family law matters. A Collaborative Divorce has three foundational principles:
- Both clients and each of their attorneys promise in writing not to take the dispute to court. This puts everyone on the same side of the table focusing on problem solving and reaching agreements. If either client does not honor this written pledge and decides to go to court, the attorneys and any other professionals are disqualified from representing or appearing in court on behalf of either client.
- There is complete open and transparent communication between clients, attorneys, and any other professionals working on behalf of the clients. This provides for an honest and good faith exchange of information from which clients can make educated and informed decisions.
- Negotiations are conducted in a manner that leads to mutually acceptable agreements on all issues. This environment takes into account the goals, priorities, and interests of ALL family members.
Collaborative Practice is an efficient and productive process for those going through divorce or for those wanting legal separations, annulments, pre or post-nuptial agreements, non-marital and/or same-sex relationships, and paternity.
What path do you want to take in your divorce?
How do I get started on a Collaborative Divorce?
The first step is to talk with a collaboratively trained professional (click here for a list of our professionals). While society leads many to believe that you must start with an attorney (and most still do), depending upon your situation, priorities, and urgency some people make their initial contact with another collaborative professional such as a collaboratively trained financial specialist or mental health specialist. Any of our collaborative professionals can assist you and your spouse with determining your next best steps. Most collaborative professionals offer a free initial consultation to discuss the process with you individually or with you and your spouse. To learn more please contact any of the collaborative divorce professionals listed on our website. (click here)
The roles of the professionals in Collaborative Divorce Practice:
What is the role of a Collaborative Attorney?
In contrast to their roles in the litigation model, Collaborative Divorce Attorneys function as settlement specialists rather than adversarial advocates arguing positions. Litigation strategy is not part of the Collaborative Divorce Practice. Collaborative Divorce Attorneys actively listen and understand the interests, needs, and goals of both you and your spouse. Collaborative Divorce Attorneys recognize that progress is made only when everyone works together to reach agreements. The Collaborative Divorce Attorney works diligently to help find the best possible solutions for their client while respecting the needs of the other spouse and the needs of the minor children, if any. Each attorney is an educator, advisor, and advocate for his or her client. They assist their client in identifying questions and issues that need resolution, provide legal advice, help to generate and evaluate resolution options, help to manage conflict, and work with everyone to come to agreements and to implement those agreements.
What is the role of a neutral Family Specialist?
A neutral Family Specialist assists families who are separating or divorcing to address the needs that arise when a family restructures from living in one home to a family living in two homes. Parents often have concerns about the impact divorce will have on their children. Knowing what to tell the children about the divorce and when can be confusing and a source of conflict between parents. A neutral Family Specialist provides the parents with valuable information, options, ideas, and suggestions that reflect the best interests of the children. A neutral Family Specialist meets with parents to obtain developmental information, identify family strengths and set goals for the children’s needs in the process and will meet with the children to assess their current and future hopes and needs. A neutral Family Specialist helps the parents create a future orientated parenting plan. Together, both parents and the neutral child specialist develop detailed plans for child transitions, on-duty parenting time, parenting philosophies and much more. The Family Specialist helps the couple support their children’s needs both during and after the divorce.
What is the role of a neutral Financial Specialist?
The divorce settlement will have an impact on your financial well-being for many years. It is critical that it is soundly structured. The guidance of a neutral financial specialist will help protect your interests. A neutral Financial Specialist is a Certified Financial Planner™, professional or Certified Public Accountant who is qualified and trained in the Collaborative Divorce Practice.
What is the role of a neutral Coach?
The Coach is typically a mental health professional experienced in working with individuals and couples going through divorce. Coaches meet with the divorcing individuals either jointly or separately depending on their needs. Coaches are central to the Collaborative Divorce Practice as their sole role is to help both individuals successfully navigate the emotional challenges of divorce and to assist with the divorce process. A neutral Coach has experience working with adults and families facing the challenge of major life transitions. The neutral Coach works to keep conflict at a minimum designed to allow for a smoother and more harmonious divorce. Less conflict can lead to less emotional and financial costs.
What is a Parenting Plan?
A Parenting Plan is document created by the divorcing parents that outlines the details and expectations for any minor children involved in the divorce. A Parenting Plan is comprehensive in that it may cover many areas of co-parenting including: parenting time, phone contact, extracurricular activities, use of technology, etc. The Parenting Plan also covers agreements regarding the parents’ behavior with each other as co-parents. The Parenting Plan is designed to serve as a resource for the co-parents in the years to come following the divorce. The Parenting Plan, created with the assistance of the neutral Family Specialist, is signed and submitted by both parents, and becomes a part of the divorce decree in Collaboration Divorce Practice.
This Plan ensures that the parenting time is consistent and helps to avoid conflict between the parents when it comes to spending time with their children. It is required by the district court along with divorce paperwork when parents divorce or separate.
How do I find a Collaborative Divorce Attorney for my spouse?
You can either obtain referrals from your Collaborative Divorce Attorney, other Collaborative Divorce Professionals, or direct your spouse to the Collaborative Divorce Attorneys Section of this website click here.
What other sources can I use to get a better understanding of Collaborative Divorce Practice and Collaborative Law?
* Click here to contact any of our Collaborative Professionals.
* Collaborative Law Institute The Collaborative Law Institute of Minnesota.
* International Academy of Collaborative Professionals is an International community of legal, mental health, and financial professionals working in concert to create client centered processes for resolving conflict.
Is a Collaborative Divorce less expensive than a traditional divorce?
It can be. The Collaborative Practice Process is designed to be more efficient through the use of neutrals. The neutrals whether they are child specialists, financial specialists, or coaches ofter work at lower fees than most attorneys and are able to conduct the necessary groundwork more quickly, efficiently, and thoroughly than attorneys not trained in those areas. Working with one neutral in their area of expertise usually results in lower fees for these parts of the process instead of paying two attorneys. Attorney involvement is more efficiently utilized, when discussing and evaluating options with both clients, both attorneys, and the neutral together with everyone focused on reaching agreements both clients can live with.
Collaborative Divorce eliminates frequent court appearances and escalated conflicts that are often part of a traditional divorce. The elimination of court appearances along with minimizing conflict not only reduces the emotional wear and tear on clients but also the financial cost. Traditional divorce if one pits attorneys and multiple experts for both clients against each other and creates conflict. In a traditional divorce if one side hires an outside expert the other side will want to do the same thing. The preparation of documents and exhibits for use in court, or to conduct depositions, or issue subpoenas adds to conflict and will significantly increase emotional and financial costs.
Fees in a Collaborative Divorce can be less expensive for all of the above reasons. It is always important to remember that the cost of any divorce will always depend upon several factors. The amount and intensity of conflict that you and your spouse bring into or maintain during the divorce process will directly affect the pace you and your spouse will be able to reach agreement on all issues. Conflict, which affects the pace of reaching agreements, is the single most important factor that will determine the cost of your divorce both financially and emotionally. In a Collaborative Divorce, you have the benefit of a professional team working on your behalf to minimize conflicts and efficiently help you reach agreements.
Can Collaborative Practice work for cases that have already been filed with the Court?
Yes. Both clients and Collaborative Attorneys can sign and file a Request for Deferral with the Court. The Request for Deferral permits the couple to engage in a formal collaborative practice process. The clients represent to the Court that both spouses have contractually agreed to enter into a collaborative practice process in an attempt to resolve their differences.
Once the Request for Deferral is filed, the Court will defer the action and place it on the inactive calendar for one year or until further order of the Court.
If you and your spouse wish to opt out of a litigated case and are interested in exploring Collaborative Practice, you should contact one of our Collaborative Divorce Attorneys (click here).
Can Mediation be used in the Collaborative Practice Process?
Yes. In the Collaborative Practice Process, couples may enlist the services of a mediator when they believe a neutral professional, who has been trained in a specific skill set, can assist in generating options, evaluating options and outcomes, offering information that could be helpful in resolving disputes. Mediation is rarely done in the Collaborative Practice Process, but when it is, couples often find that mediators can assist in resolving problems. Mediators in Collaborative Practice cases can be various professions, such as retired judges, attorneys, mental health professionals, and financial professionals, depending on the nature of the issue to be resolved. The Collaborative Attorneys are often present during mediation.
Are all divorce cases appropriate for Collaborative Practice?
Some divorce cases regardless of the process may not have any good approaches. These types of cases may involve one or more of the following:
- There has been a history of serious physical or emotional abuse in the relationship
- Your spouse has a “hidden agenda”, ulterior motives, or you have concerns with their honesty
- You are concerned that your spouse wants to use the Collaborative Practice Process to gain an unfair advantage
- Significant mental health issues and/or severe personality disorders
- Current or recent substance abuse and/or chemical dependency issues
While any of the above situations may not be ideal for the Collaborative Divorce Practice, no other process will be ideal for these circumstances either. Clients may find that even in some, not all, of these extremely difficult situations, the Collaborative Divorce Practice will provide additional support which no other process can provide. It is critically important that you discuss the presence of any of these circumstances with any collaborative professional you may choose to consult. Great care must be taken to assess the likelihood of successfully navigating the Collaborative Divorce Practice under these circumstances. Your Collaborative Divorce Professional(s) are in the best position to help determine whether or not the Collaborative Divorce Practice is appropriate.
What other types of conflicts could utilize the Collaborative Practice?
The Collaborative Practice can work for many types of family law conflicts other than divorce, including paternity, adoption, third party custody, and post decree issues such as custody and child support modifications, just to name a few. The Collaborative Practice is particularly helpful in cases where both parents put the needs of their children first, but require legal guidance or other support to reach agreement. It is also well suited to other types of case where preserving continuing relationships is an important factor, such as estate matters, elder law issues, and business partnership claims.