Collaborative Law

What is Collaborative Law?

Collaborative law refers to a new method of solving legal disputes that avoids traditional court proceedings. Rather than filing a lawsuit, each side voluntarily agrees to a series of sit-down negotiations between the parties, their attorneys, and any number of experts and therapists trained in the subject matter of the dispute. These meetings allow the parties to openly exchange information and discuss the matter with an understanding that nothing communicated will later be used against them in court. The collaborative law process is founded on good faith. By taking a cooperative approach, rather than an adversarial one, parties can resolve difficult issues that would otherwise lead to expensive and time-consuming litigation.

People tend to use collaborative law to settle highly emotional cases such as business partnership dissolutions, wrongful discharge claims, and family law cases. It is not surprising, then, to learn that the vast majority of collaborative law cases deal with divorce. Divorce litigants tend to ignore the practical ramifications of using the legal system to fight about relatively minor issues. These cases can spiral out of control, with the potential for each side to spend far more money on legal fees than either stands to gain, even in the unlikely event of a complete victory. Considering that the care and wellbeing of young children may be at stake as well, using collaborative law to handle a divorce proves to be the right choice for many couples.

Reasons to Avoid Traditional Litigation

Litigation is well suited for those who are “looking for a fight,” and who do not mind spending a lot of money to battle the other party in court. It is also appropriate in cases where compromise is not desirable, such as cases brought by victims of domestic violence against their abusers. However, for many individuals, the negative aspects of litigation outweigh any potential benefit. Litigation is expensive. Due to backlogged court dockets, it is a slow process as well. Private, sensitive, or embarrassing information can be made public, either in open court, or in court filings. Moreover, litigation makes it difficult for parties to maintain a cordial relationship once the case ends. This is a particularly important concern for divorcing spouses who will share custody of their children in the future.

Collaborative Law Benefits

In contrast to traditional litigation, collaborative law is not necessarily quicker and less expensive, but at least the parties directly control how the proceedings unfold. Those who feel the issues are being disposed of without a proper amount of consideration and debate can insist that more time be spent crafting a resolution, or that additional experts or therapists be brought in to provide insight. On the other hand, those who want to expedite the case are free to compromise on contested issues and reduce the time it takes to bring the matter to a close. The parties work through the issues at their own pace, not according to the court’s schedule.

Collaborative law also offers the benefit of confidentiality. The parties are not required to put their allegations into written pleadings, motions, and other court filings that can be viewed by the general public. Another benefit often cited in support of a collaborative approach is the built-in financial incentive for the parties to do what it takes to make the process work. If it fails, and the case must be moved into the court system, then the attorneys for both sides must withdraw. Any consultants hired during the collaborative stage must also resign. When it appears the parties may be at an impasse in their negotiations, this underlying threat of both sides having to hire a new team of professionals is often enough to get the process moving forward once again.

How the Process Works

The first group session in a collaborative law case involves both parties and their attorneys meeting together to review the terms that will govern the process. They may begin with a standard form contract, and modify the agreement prior to signing, in order to address specific concerns, such as the kinds of experts who will be hired, and how costs will be allocated. The group will then meet on a regularly scheduled basis to negotiate solutions to the issues in the case. In a collaborative divorce, these issues might include alimony, property division, child support, visitation, and so forth. Once the parties are in agreement on all of the issues, the attorneys will work together to draft a stipulated court pleading that will officially resolve the case.

Finding a Collaborative Law Attorney

If you are facing potential litigation and you would like to deal with the matter outside of the courthouse, collaborative law may be the answer. These cases are not handled by general practitioners, however. Contact a collaborative law specialist in your area to learn more.


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Articles About Collaborative Law

  • Child Custody and Housing Options
    Traditionally, child custody was given primarily to one parent – usually the mother – and the other parent would have some form of visitation. This often consisted of every other weekend, Wednesday evenings, a portion of the summer and alternating holidays.
  • Collaborative Law Offers a New, Amicable Way to Divorce in Texas
    The ways Americans can get divorced have increased nowadays. No longer is the norm a knock-down court battle, which in contentious divorces can leave the ex-spouses and their children distressed. An option now available is the collaborative law model.
  • Custody: Crossing State Lines with Children
    It is no secret to any practicing family law attorney that Family Court can get very ugly. It often evolves into a competition where each party frequently crosses the proverbial line in an effort to make the other party look bad.
  • Alimony: Changes in Spousal Maintenance: Cohabitation or Remarriage in Minnesota
    Changes in Minnesota's Spousal Maintenance law may affect those who cohabitate. 
  • How to Terminate Joint Tenancy in New Jersey
    What is joint tenancy? It’s a form of joint possession of property. It’s similar to tenancy in common, however, the difference is that joint tenancy includes the survivorship right.
  • Race Discrimination in New Jersey
    In New Jersey, it is against the law for anyone to be discriminated against because of national origin, color, or race. You cannot be discriminated against in public accommodation, housing, or in employment.
  • Minnesota's Social Early Neutral Evaluation (SENE) and Preparation
    Preparing for a Social Early Neutral Evaluation may assist parties in presenting and resolving their custody and parenting time issues at a an early stage of legal proceedings.
  • Top 5 Reasons to Choose Collaborative Divorce in Texas
    Divorce is difficult, but not all divorces are created equally. Here in Austin and Greater Metro Area, more and more people are choosing to resolve their family law issues via the collaborative process. Collaborative divorce is a method of dispute resolution where the spouses agree from the beginning that they are each going to retain attorneys who will work as settlement specialists and who will not engage in court battles.
  • Florida Enacts Collaborative Divorce Law
    Florida Governor Rick Scott signed HB 967, which is entitled “Collaborative Law Process Act,” into law on March 24, 2016. In doing so, Florida joins an increasing number of other states who already have enacted legislation permitting collaborative divorces. Before the Act becomes effective, however, the Florida Supreme Court must approve and adopt Rules of Procedure and Rules of Professional Conduct to govern the collaborative divorce process.
  • Don't Make These Mistakes in Your Divorce
    Every divorce is different. The parties to a divorce have different needs and expectations. But across the board, any person going through a divorce should avoid these mistakes.
  • All Family Law Articles

    Articles written by attorneys and experts worldwide discussing legal aspects related to Family Law including: adoption, alimony, child support and custody, child visitation, collaborative law, divorce, domestic violence, elder law, juvenile crime, juvenile law, juvenile probation, paternity, pre-nuptial agreement, separation.

Collaborative Law - US

  • ABA - Collaborative Law Committee

    The Collaborative Law Committee explores the use of Collaborative Law in both family and non-family settings and monitors and advises the Section Council about developments in the field - such as the efforts by Uniform Law Commission, formerly the NCCUSL, to draft a Uniform Law, the emerging set of state ethical opinions on CL, and legislation around the country.

  • Collaborative Law - Wikipedia

    Collaborative Law (also called Collaborative Practice, Collaborative Divorce, and Collaborative Family Law) was originally a family law procedure in which the two parties agreed that they would not go to court, or threaten to do so. This approach to conflict resolution was created in 1990 by a Minnesota family lawyer named Stu Webb, who saw that traditional litigation was not always helpful to parties and their families, and often was damaging.

  • The Basics of Collaborative Family Law - A Divorce Paradigm Shift

    Collaborative Family Law (CFL) is a revolutionary approach to divorce that has quickly spread throughout the United States and Canada. Often misunderstood and occasionally maligned, it has the potential to dramatically change the field of family law. In Medicine Hat, Canada, it has virtually eliminated family law litigation. CFL is a continuation of the trend to empower participants in the divorce process that began with, and shares many of the principles of, mediation. This article will provide an overview of the basic principles and choreography of CFL.

  • Uniform Collaborative Law Act - ADR

    Collaborative Law is a voluntary dispute resolution process for parties represented by counsel. Like mediation, Collaborative Law helps parties resolve their dispute themselves rather than having a ruling imposed upon them by a court or arbitrator. A key feature of Collaborative Law is the Collaborative Law Participation Agreement with disqualification provision. If a party seeks judicial intervention, the Agreement requires that counsel for all parties withdraw from further representation in legal proceedings.

Organizations for Collaborative Law

  • Global Collaborative Law Council, Inc.

    The Global Collaborative Law Council, Inc. (GCLC) was originally established in October 2004, as the Texas Collaborative Law Council, Inc. by attorneys committed to assisting clients in managing conflict and resolving disputes without litigation. In January 2009, the organization expanded to serve attorneys and other professionals worldwide, involved in the practice of civil collaborative law.

  • International Academy of Collaborative Professionals

    IACP is the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, an international community of legal, mental health and financial professionals working in concert to create client-centered processes for resolving conflict.

Publications For Collaborative Law

  • Collaborative Practice Articles accepts high quality articles on mediation and dispute resolution. Our primary focus is to educate and encourage the public and other consumer groups to use mediation.

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