WHAT IS COLLABORATIVE LAW?
Collaborative law, also known as collaborative practice, divorce or family law, is a legal process enabling couples who have decided to separate or end their marriage to work with their lawyers and, on occasion, other family professionals in order to avoid the uncertain outcome of court and to achieve a settlement that best meets the specific needs of both parties and their children without the underlying threat of litigation. The voluntary process is initiated when the couple signs a contract (a “participation agreement”) binding each other to the process and disqualifying their respective lawyer’s right to represent either one in any future family-related litigation, should the process fail, which is rare.
The collaborative process can be used to facilitate a broad range of other family issues, including disputes between parents and the drawing up of pre and post-marital contracts. As the traditional method of drawing up pre-marital contracts is oppositional, many couples prefer to begin their married life with documents drawn up consensually and mutually.
Collaborative law processes also have the added benefit of being cost efficient for the involved parties. As the necessary tasks in the collaborative model are assigned to specialist professionals without duplication of effort, cost savings are realized. These cost efficiencies, in addition to other potential benefits, have led parties in other contexts to explore the use of collaborative law to resolve disputes, including M&A transactions.
Why Choose Collaborative Divorce when Children are Involved
One of the most difficult issues parents deal with in divorce actions are issues concerning their children. It can become overwhelming for parents when they think about how their children will handle the breakup. Which parent is best suited to be the primary parent? Will there be enough money after the breakup for the parents to ensure that the children can attend the same private school or camp or engage in the same extra-curricular activities? Should the children be exposed to Mom or Dad’s new significant other? Is it healthy for children to go back and forth between 2 households during school or will it be too disruptive? The list goes on and on.
It is my experience that very often both parents have the same fears and concerns with respect to their children; however, in a conventional divorce, communication between the parents may have frayed or even altogether broken down. The parents may no longer be able to have a constructive discussion about what is best for their children. All to often, both parents suffer silently as their attorneys battle over these vital and delicate issues concerning access and contact and child rearing. In the midst of a contentious divorce, the parties may not even begrudgingly acknowledge their mutual love and concern for their children.
A collaborative divorce is geared towards maintaining a much more constructive framework for resolving custody and child rearing issues. (Click here if you would like to read more about how collaborative divorce works.) The collaborative framework enables the parties to work in a friendly setting in order to identify the issues concerning the children and to brainstorm with each other, with the assistance of trained professionals, to work through the difficult issues they identify. The team consists of their attorneys and appropriate mental health professionals including child psychologists, if necessary, who have experience in dealing with these issues. It is amazing to see the parents’ stress level significantly decreased simply by utilizing trained professionals (alongside the lawyers) in order to help navigate and work to resolve these difficult issues. It is also amazing to see how easily parents can come together, with the proper guidance, when working to define and advance the best interests of their children.
Divorce is difficult but it does not have to be outright war. The issues concerning divorce can be extremely difficult to work through but you and your spouse will have a better experience and are much more likely to achieve a better outcome for your children when a collaborative approach is used.
Please Contact Collaborative Divorce Attorney Carmen R. Gillett at 941-366-9826
Founding Member of the Sarasota Collaborative Family Law Professionals
Member of the Florida Academy of Collaborative Professionals