Our Process

WHAT IS COLLABORATIVE PRACTICE?

Collaborative Practice is a consensual dispute resolution process that helps people solve their differences in private and without going to Court. The process utilizes an interdisciplinary collaborative team approach which includes attorneys, and may include mental health professionals and a jointly retained financial specialist, who all work together as problem solvers to assist you and your spouse/partner in reaching a fair and confidential1 agreement.

A Collaborative Team can be any combination of professionals that the two of you may decide upon; with the one exception being that you each must have your own collaboratively trained attorney.

 


Full Team Model

In the Full Team Model, each of you are represented by your own collaboratively trained Attorney, who will provide you with the legal information and advice to assist you in making sound informed decisions. Your attorney may help you to assemble a team of other collaboratively trained professionals, dependent upon the nature of your dispute and the needs of your family.2 In the Full Team Model each of you is assisted by a collaboratively trained mental health professional who serves as your Communications Coach. Your Coach will assist you in having those hard conversations with your spouse and dealing with those difficult situations that may arise in establishing and agreements that meet your mutual interests and the best interests of your children. A Child Specialist, who is a collaboratively trained mental health professional, often can assist you and your spouse and the team in gaining a better understanding of the needs and concerns of your children, which can often be a difficult subject to address. A jointly retained Financial Neutral (Accountant or Financial Planner) will assist you and the members of your team in getting a clear understanding of the family’s finances, as well as ways to help you meet your financial goals for the future. Today’s families face situations that mean sorting out lots of pieces; children and parenting, financial responsibilities and relationship concerns. Collaborative practice puts it all together with the expertise to guide you to find the best solutions available without the hurt and animosity of the litigation process (Court).

  1. All collaborative team members and the two of you are required to sign a “Confidentiality Agreement”. Documents filed with the Court are a matter of public record, so ask your Collaborative Attorney to explain your options.
  2. You can start the Collaborative Process by meeting with any collaborative professional (Mental Health, Financial or Legal) who can each assist you in assembling your Collaborative Team.


HOW DOES IT WORK?


It starts by contacting a Collaborative Divorce Professional of your choosing (Attorney, Mental Health Professional or Financial Neutral). During your initial consultation, that professional will assist you with gaining a better understanding of how the Collaborative Divorce Process works and how it may work for your family. (For a list of our collaborative professionals near you please go to the Members Profiles tab above.)

Each collaborative professional has their own intake process. Some will want to meet with you alone at first and then make suggestions on how to engage your spouse/partner into the process. Others will only meet with the two of you together at first and limit the discussion to process options. The next goal is to assist you in establishing a collaborative team.  The make up of your team will likely depend upon the unique circumstances of your case.


Frequently Asked Questions


Can either of us quit during the collaborative process?

Yes. Each of you keeps the right to stop the collaborative process if it is not working well for her or him. It is in each person’s interest to behave so that the process is fair and considerate of the other party. Thus, in collaborative law it is counter-productive to use tactics such as intimidation, withholding information or being uncooperative, because these tactics will simply cause the process to fall apart. When the process is stopped, the collaborative attorneys will withdraw. Either party may initiate court action. We have found that most people prefer to reach a successful conclusion of the process and few want to withdraw.

How much will the collaborative approach cost?

Each case is unique, but typically, the collaborative approach may cost one third to one half as much as if the same case had gone to court. This is because there are no court motions or hearings, and information is provided voluntarily instead of being extracted through an expensive series of legal demands.

I feel that I am at a disadvantage because my spouse has always controlled our finances. Will I have the same rights as I would if we went to court?

Yes. Financial disclsoure must happen fully and voluntarily, and without delay. This requirement is fundamental to the collaborative process. It signals that the parties are willing to be straightforward and avoid game-playing about information. In collaborative practice,  the parties aim for the considerable benefits that flow when information is freely shared rather than concealed. California law requires full disclosure in all divorce cases and imposes serious penalties for hiding assets.

Must I settle for less than what I am entitled to, if I choose the collaborative family law process?

No. Just because you prefer to avoid court battles doesn’t mean you must settle for less. In collaborative practice, we help participants to achieve fair and equitable settlements which focus on their needs, goals, and what is best for everyone the family. You will be given many options to choose from, so you can decide what you want, rather than decisions (which you may not agree with) being made by a judge who doesn’t know you or your priorities. Settlements reached through this collaborative process are generally much more satisfactory and durable than settlements reached on the courthouse steps.

My spouse and I are very angry with each other right now. Is collaborative law only for “amicable divorces?”

Not at all.  Anger is a natural response when our primary relationships change, even if we are unhappy in the relationship ourselves.  In collaborative practice, your will receive support and guidance to go through the process of detachment, including the strong feelings—such as grief and anger—that often accompany it.  In conventional “no fault” divorces, there is no “official” place to deal with anger or grief, and unresolved feelings may end up fueling fights over topics that should be addressed with mutual interests in mind, topics such as parenting arrangements, cash flow and asset division.   In collaborative practice, we help you learn to express emotion in a direct yet respectful way so that each person’s perspectives can be heard and considered.

Should I consider collaborative practice for my divorce?

You may not be able to save your marriage, but you can protect your future and that of your children.  Research shows that the method couples choose for pursuing their divorce (non-adversarial or adversarial) will have a powerful impact on the happiness of their post-marriage relationships, including relationships with children and future spouses.  It is no surprise that the worst outcomes arise from bitterly litigated divorces.  Bad divorces leave a toxic residue that can last a lifetime.  Collaborative law offers parties an opportunity for a better outcome and a better future for parents and for children.

We don’t want our personal finances and troubles to become public knowledge or turn up on the Internet. Will collaborative practice protect our privacy?

Yes. The collaborative process makes it unnecessary to place in the court’s public files documents detailing your personal matters.  This is a significant advantage for many high profile couples or those who simply wish to preserve their privacy.

What about the children? How are arrangements for children decided in collaborative divorce?

Collaborative law is kind and supportive of both parents and children, and allows them to move through a transition that is already difficult enough, without triggering destructive battling.   Mental health experts (called “coaches”) will help in developing a parenting plan, and help you to learn how to deal productively with the other parent for the sake of your children. A neutral child specialist can give the children a safe place to talk about the changes that are happening in the family.  The child specialist can offer insights to help parents develop the best plan for their children.

When we reach a settlement through the collaborative process, will i be as legally binding as if we had gone to court?

Yes. Your collaborative attorneys will prepare an enforceable legal judgment that will set out the terms of your settlement. You will not need to personally appear in court to finalize the divorce.

Where do I begin, and how do I contact a collaborative professional?

LACFLA’s website www.lacfla.org provides a list of members who have been specially trained in the collaborative approach.  Any one of them will be able to sit down with you in a consultation to answer questions and inform you about the collaborative process.

Will I have my own attorney?

Yes. Each person retains his or her own trained collaborative attorney to advise and assist in negotiating an agreement on all issues.  Your attorney informs you of your rights and gives you sound legal advice about your situation. Collaborative divorce attorneys make every effort not to aggravate the tensions that already exist between the parties.  Their role is to create a safe environment for your assessment of options and negotiations for resolution.



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