Would you like to handle your divorce privately? Would you like to make the decisions about your family and how it’s going to change instead of having a court make those decisions for you? Would you like to maintain a working relationship with your spouse after your divorce? Would you like to serve as a role model for your children to show them how to resolve conflict respectfully and effectively?

Collaborative family law is an alternative to litigated (court-based) and often contentious disagreements surrounding family-related issues. The basic idea of collaborative law is for you, your spouse and your specially trained attorneys to work together to engage in non-confrontational sessions to discuss the issues and goals of the involved individuals. The issues may include, but are not limited to divorce, support of a spouse or children, how to divide the marital assets and establishing co-parenting plans.

The attorneys and spouses are a team focused on one goal – a negotiated resolution that both spouses can support. You may decide to include other professionals in this team, such as a divorce coach to help everyone communicate more effectively so the process moves more smoothly. Depending on the complexity of your financial situation, you may decide to include a neutral financial professional to focus on the “numbers” part of the divorce. Although the attorneys are part of the collaborative team, it’s important to realize that each attorney is representing only his or her own client.

The spouses and their collaborative team participate in a series of meetings, with advance preparation and clear agendas, to make decisions. These meetings are designed to be informal and are generally held in the attorneys’ offices. For each meeting, one of the attorneys will take notes to prepare and distribute written minutes after the meeting. The spouses and their collaborative team will generally have “homework” to complete after each meeting, to prepare for the next meeting.

All participants in the collaborative process commit to full disclosure of relevant information without the need for formal requests for information. This allows both spouses to make informed decisions, working with the same information, without the time and expense associated with formal written discovery requests exchanged between the parties and their attorneys. The professionals involved also commit to engaging only in the collaborative process. If the spouses are unable to reach an agreement in the collaborative process and decide to pursue court action instead, none of the professionals involved in the collaborative process will be involved in the court process.

When spouses reach an agreement in the collaborative process, they sign a written contract that is enforceable and binding on both of them, with no court involvement. If you are considering a divorce or involved in divorce proceedings, you may learn more about the collaborative process at www.collaborativelawpa.com and www.collaborativepractice.com.