Alternatives to Court: The Collaborative Process.

AuthorDargatz, Sarah
PositionColumns | Family Law

John-Paul Boyd explained why people might want to find an alternative to court to reach a resolution about their family law disputes in the November/December 2018 issue of LawNow.

One alternative to court is the Collaborative process. Many processes, such a negotiation or mediation, can be "collaborative", meaning cooperative or amicable. However, here I am writing about the big "C", Collaborative Divorce process.

In this process, the people involved in a family dispute sign an agreement to be forthright and transparent in providing relevant information, negotiating in good faith, and to not go to court. Each person has a lawyer who is trained and registered in the Collaborative process. Other specially trained professionals, such as financial and mental health specialists, may also join the team to help the couple find solutions to their disputes. The process, unlike court, is private and confidential.

Through a series of meetings, the separating couple and their lawyers identify what is most important to them and explore options to satisfy their interests. This is often referred to as interest-based negotiations. The goal is to find solutions that work for everyone. It allows a separated couple to come up with creative solutions that work for them and their children. The process works because everyone is playing by the same ground rules.

If the separated couple needs more information about the value of a company or one person's income in order to set child support, they can jointly retain a neutral financial specialist who will provide an objective analysis to both of them, and their lawyers. If the separated couple needs more information about how their actions might affect their children, or what decision might be in their child's best interests, they can jointly engage a child specialist who can educate them or provide their professional opinion. If one, or both, people are having a hard time moving forward or processing the separation, they can hire a divorce coach to give them the best tools to manage stress, communicate with their former partner, and fully participate in the process.

The lawyers continue to have the same professional obligations they would have to any family law client such as to advise on the law and provide opinions of likely outcomes. Each lawyer owes a duty to their own client and is not neutral. Once an agreement is reached, the lawyers will draft a legally binding agreement and provide independent legal advice...

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