How does the Collaborative Law Process work?
The Collaborative Law Process is a team approach to resolving conflict and is used primarily in divorce, legal separation and parenting conflicts but can also be used in other civil legal matters. It is based on a set of principles that significantly change the dynamics between people from adversarial to collaborative. The process is client-centered, requiring attorneys and clients to make essential shifts in thinking and control. The central tenet is the clients’ agreement to use a negotiation structure that requires them to forgo the use or threatened use of litigation as a strategy or tactic. The Collaborative Process requires participants to act with honesty, transparency, candor and respect.
Initially, clients and their Collaborative lawyers enter into an attorney-client retainer agreement that confirms the unique nature of representation in a Collaborative Law matter. The retention of a Collaborative attorney confirms the client’s commitment to resolve the dispute without resorting to litigation. The client is informed and understands that a Collaborative attorney cannot change hats and represent the client in future litigation if the matter is not resolved through a Collaborative agreement.
Once each spouse has retained a Collaborative attorney, their counsel will arrange a meeting to review and sign a Collaborative Participation Agreement. Signatures on this agreement formally start the Collaborative Process and the provisions of Washington’s Uniform Collaborative Law Act do not apply without it.
At this initial meeting (called a “four-way”), high end goals and any issues requiring immediate attention will be discussed. Generally, neutral professionals join the team by signing the agreement after this meeting. In most cases, clients begin information gathering through work with the neutral professionals to make this phase efficient and effective. Parents will work on a parenting agreement with the Collaborative coach who has credentials and training in family systems and child development.
Once financial and budgeting information has been reviewed at a subsequent Collaborative joint meeting, the clients will identify what is most important to them in an agreement. Then, together with their attorneys, they will develop options for resolution that incorporate those important elements to the extent possible. Using their unique Collaborative skill set the attorneys facilitate communications and negotiations while at the same time providing legal education and guidance.
Through this process, the clients develop a durable agreement which takes into account their individual interests as well as the broader interests of children and the changing family system.
What is a Collaborative Team?
In all Collaborative cases each client has an attorney. Most collaborative cases will involve a neutral Financial Specialist to efficiently gather and analyze financial data so both parties have the same data on which to make informed decisions. Generally, the most effective and efficient collaborative processes also utilize a neutral coach. A coach is particularly important in cases where there are parenting issues.
A Child Specialist may have a limited role to provide information from the children’s perspective so parents can make informed decisions as they transition to a two home co-parenting relationship.
How do I find a Collaborative Law professional who is a good fit for me?
Use KCCL’s directory of our members to find your Collaborative Law professional. Each of our members has, at a minimum met the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals minimum standards for Collaborative Practitioners which include Introductory Collaborative Practice Training or an Introductory Interdisciplinary Collaborative Practice Training, at least one thirty-hour training in client centered, facilitative conflict resolution, of the kind typically taught in mediation training and an additional fifteen hours of training in the areas of interest based negotiation, communication skills, Collaborative practice skills, advanced mediation skills or basic professional coach training. In addition, each of our members is committed to ongoing learning and skill building with our continuing education requirements.
In addition, each of our members is part of a robust community who share their experience and learning with each other.
A meeting with a Collaborative Law attorney or other professional will help you further understand if this process will work well for you. Many of your questions may also be answered by our FAQ’s.