Collaborative Family Practice - What Is It, and Can It Work For Me?

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Collaborative Practice is a form of “alternative dispute resolution” that can be a valuable alternative to litigation and trial.  In the context of family disputes, the principal difference between Collaborative Practice and conventional family law is the commitment of each party to reach an agreement before involving the assistance of the court.  More specifically, each party, together with his or her respective attorney, consent in writing to be a part of a process that results in an out-of-court resolution.

Inevitably, inter-family conflict yields strained and difficult communications. Success in reaching an out-of-court agreement, however, requires open lines of communication. Collaborative Practice allows for face-to-face meetings with the parties, their respective attorneys and, as appropriate, a team of other appropriate professionals.  This format of open discussion permits direct and solution-focused problem-solving.

So who are the other professionals who may form part of the Collaborative Family Practice team?  In addition to Collaboratively-trained attorneys, who assist parties on the legal issues involved in their family dispute, the specific areas of dispute may lend themselves to additional professionals.  For example, in divorce, the parties are experiencing a major life change.  As such, it is often the case that Collaborative lawyers will strongly advocate for the participation of a Collaboratively-trained divorce coach – a mental health professional who is available to assist in the management of the stress and emotional strain of separation and divorce while ensuring the parties focused on present and future goal-setting.  In addition, there are often financial issues at play, such as disposition of marital assets, alimony and child support. 

Depending upon the financial complexity, it is often appropriate for a Collaboratively-trained Financial Specialist who is able to provide assistance in gathering information and presenting various financial scenarios for consideration.  A further example might include participation of a Child Specialist, a Collaboratively-trained mental health professional with experience in understanding the developmental and other needs of children, who may serve to assist them in expressing their feelings and concerns, which information can, in turn, be shared with the parties in order to create a child-focused parenting plan. 

There are, of course, a variety of additional professionals who may be of assistance, such as realtors, mortgage brokers, and even mediators, all of whom have formal Collaborative training and who may become part of the Collaborative team, each affirming the same commitment to avoid court.

For questions about this article or any other Family Law matter, please contact an attorney in our Family Law practice group.