In actual practice, the concepts of the Collaborative Divorce process are the opposite of almost everything attorneys have been trained to do. It demands a definite shift in an attorney’s mindset and methods to successfully handle a case collaboratively.
The differences between adversarial and collaborative are profound. The divorcing parties and attorneys also agree to cooperate fully in providing full disclosure and to produce whatever documentation is requested by the other party. The attorneys commit in writing to act honestly and professionally and to treat the other attorney and the clients with respect and dignity to allow for a friendly divorce.
The attorneys remain advocates for their client’s positions. Each act as an advisor on the collaborative process and on issues of law for their respective client. The attorneys in Collaborative Divorce act together to shepherd the parties to a peaceful divorce settlement of their own making. In Collaborative Divorce, the clients are the sole focus of the process and their needs are paramount.
The basic forum of the Collaborative Divorce process is the “4-Way Meeting” or “Joint Session” where the clients and their attorneys meet together, face-to-face. By the end of the first joint session, the parties and attorneys have signed the Participation Agreement, agreed to 4 or 5 joint session dates into the future, and established how and when the attorneys will be paid. Formal Minutes of the sessions are kept and Agendas of meetings are followed. There is usually “homework” for everyone to do before the next meeting.
Many times, the parties’ new-found communication leads to reconciliation. More often, the communication leads to a firm foundation for fair dealing and open communication during and after the divorce. Collaborative Divorce safeguards the children’s interests and promotes the preservation of the parents’ relationship with each other and the children. More often than not, at the end of the process, the parties provide glowing examples of maturity, honesty, civility, rationality, and problem-solving skills for the ever-watching and ever-emulating children. Everything that is made to seem complicated, adversarial and frustrating in the litigation model can be handled more expeditiously and with less rancor in the Collaborative Divorce process.
There is a legal commitment that if the parties cannot reach a negotiated settlement and the Collaborative Divorce process terminates, both attorneys will withdraw and will not be involved in any subsequent litigation. This requirement helps to assure that all parties are acting in good faith.
Not every person is suited to be a participant in the Collaborative Divorce process, for instance if a person is incapable of dealing honestly with others. What about people with mental disorders or those that have an abusive relationship or drug or alcohol issues? Actually, with easy access to Allied Collaborative Divorce-trained professionals, who may attend the joint sessions, there is probably no better environment for getting to a peaceful divorce agreement that attends to all issues. The Collaborative Law process is confidential. What is said and done in the process, stays in the process.
Chip Rose, the pre-eminent speaker and trainer of the Collaborative Divorce process stated in his book that “this approach guarantees the clients control over the process of resolving the dispute, control over the cost of the process and control over the outcome of the dispute. None of these guarantees is associated with the adjudicatory model of an attorney-client relationship. …. The challenge to the legal profession is to find ways to respond to the evolving needs of the clients who are the consumers of the services that attorneys sell.”