Collaborative Law is a process where two parties agree to avoid going to court and enter into a contract to resolve their family law dispute outside of court over a series of sessions with the help of collaboratively trained family law lawyers and other professionals. Collaborative law is distinctly different from traditional litigation both in the process, as well as the approach to dispute resolution.
The goal of collaborative law is for each party to hear each other’s point of view, as well as to put yourself in the other person’s shoes in an attempt to truly understand where the other party is coming from. The parties, along with the skilled professionals, will then use that information to reach an agreement that is fair to both sides and takes into account each party’s needs and concerns. This differs from the litigation process where the focus is on presenting your best case to the court while pointing out the weaknesses in the opposing party’s position.
The collaborative law process is also very different than the litigation process in that no case is opened with the court until a full agreement is reached. Therefore, the parties are not bound to court deadlines and can take as much time as is needed to fully resolve all disputes. Both parties are required, as part of the process, to exchange financial information and any other relevant information that is necessary for the parties to reach an agreement.
In order to assist parties in reaching a full resolution, collaborative law offers several resources to parties. First, each party must retain a collaboratively trained attorney. Attorneys trained in collaborative law undergo special training to learn the process and how to use it effectively.
After both attorneys have been retained, the attorneys and parties will discuss whether it would be beneficial to bring in other professionals to the group meetings. One option is to hire a collaborative law coach or coaches to assist the parties in improving their communication skills and understanding each party’s point of view. Collaborative coaches usually have a mental health background. One coach can be hired for both parties, or each party may desire to hire their own coach.
Additionally, if financial issues are in dispute, it may be wise to bring a financial expert into the collaborative group to help both parties understand what assets and debts exist and to explore the possibilities of how property and debts can be divided. Financial experts can also help parties understand their budgets going forward, including whether any financial support in the form of maintenance/alimony or child support is needed and how much the paying party can afford to pay.
Once the collaborative group is formed, joint meetings will be scheduled with specific agendas for each meeting to keep the parties moving towards resolution. Each party is free to communicate with his or her own collaborative attorney in private about any issue they are concerned about or would like to raise.
The benefit of collaborative law is that the process removes the threat of litigation, which allows parties to think open-mindedly about resolution. Additionally, parties who are able to resolve their disputes amicably through this process are much less likely to have future disputes that require court intervention. We find that parties with children are better able to communicate and co-parent, and that many people walk away from the relationship better equipped to move on with their lives.
Perhaps one of the most important things to know about collaborative law, however, is what happens if the parties are not able to reach a resolution through the process. In order to help remove the threat of litigation as a mechanism to “win” in a dispute, the collaborative law process requires that if an agreement cannot be reached and the parties must go to court, that neither collaborative attorney can continue to represent their respective clients in court. Therefore, each party must retain a new attorney to assist them through the litigation process.
If you would like to know more about collaborative law, or discuss whether collaborative law is the right fit for you, our office is located in Fort Collins. You can give us a call at 970-797-3407 or through our online Contact Us form to schedule a consultation with Ms. Monty.