There’s a wide range of options available to families who are undergoing the difficulties of breaking apart. They range from settlement negotiations between the parties to hostility-filled adversarial litigation. The collaborative option is more akin to mediation than an adversarial contest. The lawyers involved in the collaborative approach continue to represent their client’s best interests, but the difference is that they have contracted not to go to court at any time during the collaborative process.
This non-hostile approach requires lawyers to work hand-in-hand with their clients in pursuing a just resolution for the myriad of issues they might face. The client is also required to participate in this process toward resolution. The lines of communication between lawyer and client are critical to success. Sometimes, this can be a very creative process, especially for those who come to the table with an open mind. Collaborative lawyers are specially trained in ‘interest-based’ communication and negotiation skills. They have to be prepared to share the controlling interest in the case with their clients and be ready to integrate the expertise of other family law professionals, when the case might call for it.
What separates the collaborative process from formal mediation is that the collaborative attorney must be willing to work with their client in an effort to bring them closer to the decision-making process. The parties are encouraged to take responsibility for their proposed outcome.
Collaborative lawyers are also required to work ethically in a cooperative manner with one another to ensure both parties are playing fairly in the process – which includes full disclosure. The difficult part of the process is that if negotiations should reach a dead-end, both lawyers must withdraw from the case, leaving the clients with the need to seek new attorneys to represent them through the adversarial system in family law court.