Collaborative Practice or Collaborative Law is a client-centered voluntary alternative to the traditional litigation or adversarial method of resolving disputes. It is premised upon the concept that the individuals who are getting divorced or are having a family conflict are in the best position to resolve their own disputes with the help of supportive professionals rather than relying solely on a third party. Thus, disputes may be resolved respectfully and with dignity.
The center of Collaborative Practice is to offer the individuals the support, protection and guidance of their own lawyers. The individuals seeking to use this dispute resolution model may work with a team of trained professionals (financial specialists and mental health coaches as well as attorneys) in a process aimed not just at the legal aspects of divorce but the economic as well as the psychological.
The Collaborative Practice process involves identifying the issues and concerns of both parties, understanding the interests and needs of the parties and their children, clarifying the various perceptions and finally, exploring potential options with an eye toward resolving the conflict together. The focus of the Collaborative Practice process is to create a resolution developed by the individuals which maximizes the satisfaction of the needs and interests of all the members of the family or a “win-win” result.
In Collaborative Practice there are various core elements which form the contractual commitments between the parties undertaking the process and the professionals who are helping them. These elements include:
- Negotiating a mutually acceptable settlement without resort to the courts.
- Maintaining open communication and information sharing.
- Creating shared solutions acknowledging the highest priorities of all.
The parties within the Collaborative Practice process will often have less need to engage in fights over smaller issues since they have the bigger picture in mind. In order for the Collaborative Practice process to work all parties need to have the same access to the same basic information regarding finances and other issues. As such, transparency is required by both parties and both parties agree to this requirement. Thus, since there should be fewer disputes over discovery there will be less time and money spent on the side disputes regarding discovery.
Perhaps the most beneficial aspects of Collaborative Practice (both economic and psychological) can be reaped when there are children involved. By the very definition of Collaborative Practice there is less animosity developed or stoked during the process and if such emotions arise there is an effort made to defuse them. This does not mean that emotions are checked at the door of the Collaborative Practice model. Rather, the goal is that emotions are addressed directly so that they do not fester or create a toxic environment. Hopefully by embracing the underpinnings of the Collaborative Practice model the parties will develop a method for confronting future disputes so that they do not escalate. Thus, the hope is that with the help of all the professionals, the relationships with children can more readily be preserved.
The Collaborative Practice process provides a method for individuals to separate and divorce in a manner which each party may retain their dignity and respect and which recognizes that, especially when children are involved, the family still exists on some level, just in a different configuration.