In the 1990s, attorneys began to realize that divorce is not always a purely legal issue. Frequently, it is a personal (and often emotionally charged) issue that has legal attachments. A collaborative divorce is an alternative and more constructive way to end a marriage than prolonged, bitter litigation. It is unique in that the collaborative process is based upon a mutual commitment not to go to court for resolution of any issues, a mutual promise to honestly and freely exchange information and the mutual goal to reach an agreement that takes into consideration the priorities and needs of the parties and their children. Both parties and their attorneys are required to sign a Collaborative Participation Agreement. Without the execution of this Agreement, a case is not a true “collaborative” case. This Agreement is what outlines the governing rules for the process.
If the collaborative process breaks down, both parties are required to retain new attorneys. The standard Collaborative Participation Agreement provides for a cooling off period that will allow both parties sufficient time to retain new attorneys before litigation commences. In addition to the collaborative lawyers, the current trend in collaborative family law is to hire a financial specialist, a child specialist (a trained mental health professional) and a divorce coach (also a trained mental health professional) for each party. Some cases do not require the use of all of these experts but both parties and their attorneys have to be in agreement on their involvement or lack thereof.
If either party is unwilling to commit to follow the terms of the Collaborative Participation Agreement, it is not possible to proceed collaboratively. In situations where there has been domestic violence or where one party is overly controlling or unwilling to openly communicate, the collaborative process could be a waste of time. However, the use of a divorce coach can help even very difficult cases be successful in the collaborative process. Whether obtained through the collaborative process or after a period of litigation, it is much easier for parties to live with the terms of a Settlement Agreement that they voluntarily entered into than it is for them to live with a ruling made by a Court. Having had control over the outcome reduces the chances of the parties finding themselves back in Court later seeking to enforce, implement or modify terms of their Agreement.
Goldberg Simpson has numerous experienced litigators. However, in some instances, litigation is not preferable. A collaborative divorce is one such example. In those situations, Mitchell A. Charney and Stephanie L. Moran-White, who are experienced litigators, certified mediators, and trained collaborative professionals, can also cater to those clients seeking a different and unique approach to resolving disputes.