Collaborative Divorce

Collaborative Law (commonly known as Collaborative Divorce) is a form of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) that was developed in the late 1980s in Minnesota. Since then the practice has spread to all 50 states, as well as to other countries including Canada, England, Ireland, and Australia.

The primary goal of the Collaborative Divorce process is to settle outstanding issues in a non-adversarial manner. This process aims to minimize, if not eliminate, the negative economic, social, and emotional consequences of protracted litigation on spouses and their children.

Some of the principles of Collaborative Divorce are:

  1. The spouses seeking a divorce agree not to pursue divorce through litigation, and  instead, agree to resolve their divorce in a non-threatening, respectful, non-adversarial manner.
  2. The spouses and their attorneys agree to act in good faith and focus on needs and interests rather than “positions” in the divorce.
  3. The couple and their respective attorneys work as a team to craft a settlement that both parties feel is fair and equitable to themselves and each other.
  4. The parties and their attorneys may agree to engage other collaborative professionals such as a child specialist, divorce coach, and/or a financial specialist who are trained to help support the parties in their Collaborative Divorce.

For example, having a Divorce Coach on the team may help individuals uncouple their former, dysfunctional relationship by helping them process the emotional part of the break-up and build the skills they need to create a respectful divorce and move on with their lives.

A Child Specialist can help parents develop a parenting plan that is in their children’s best interests. Often, the Child Specialist will meet with the parents’’ children in order to assist with drafting a parenting plan that is in the children’s best interests.

A Financial Specialist can calculate many different financial scenarios to show the divorcing couple what their financial options are.

A Family Specialist performs the same functions as Divorce Coach and a Child Specialist.  A Family Specialist might be appropriate to use in low or moderate conflict cases.

An Eldercare Specialist may be useful when issues with aging, quality care, costs, or short- or long-term care options are concerned.

How Does Collaborative Divorce Work?

A Collaborative Divorce is done in a series of meetings that focus on identifying and prioritizing issues to be discussed and resolved. All participants freely exchange all relevant information, generate and discuss options, and strive to problem-solve that ultimately reaches resolution and a full settlement of the divorce.

Experienced Assistance in Collaborative Divorce

The Levey Law Group is experienced in all forms of ADR and will work with you to determine which method best suits your needs. In Collaborative Divorce, the key to success is the willingness of all parties and their attorneys to commit to the process. The Levey Law Group has met the stringent standards involving additional training in the practice of Collaborative Divorce. To learn if Collaborative Divorce offers an appropriate solution to your family law dispute, please call us.

Uniform Collaborative Law Act

Despite the potentially acrimonious and contentious nature of family law cases (such as divorce), the majority of these cases settle out of court. Collaborative Law (often referred to as Collaborative Divorce) is one way that the parties–typically spouses who are divorcing–now are settling their cases. Collaborative Law is a non-adversarial process by which the spouses—among other things–agree to the following:

  1. Not to litigate; and
  2. Work together amicably to create solutions for the issues in their case

In Collaborative Law, each spouse has his/her own attorney.  The “Team” (collectively, the parties and attorneys) might also agree to hire other professionals who have been trained in Collaborative Law such as financial experts to help resolve the financial issues, and “child specialists”—counselors to help draft a parenting plan when the spouses have minor children.

In May 2013, Washington passed the Uniform Collaborative Law Act. This law recognizes the importance and potential benefits of Collaborative Law. The law also provides requirements, rules, and responsibilities for those spouses who agree to participate in the Collaborative Law process. One requirement it creates is that at the outset of the process, both parties and their attorneys must sign a Participation Agreement. The Participation Agreement also states that in the event the process is not successful, the spouses must both then get different attorneys to represent them in court.

The law also provides that the process is confidential. This means that neither spouse nor any of the professionals involved in the process may be called to provide testimony should the Collaborative Divorce process fail. The purpose of this provision is to make sure that the spouses feel free to openly discuss proposals and facts without fear that these proposals could backfire should the Collaborative Divorce process fail.

However, depending on the nature of the documents exchanged and disclosed during the Collaborative Divorce process, those documents could become public should the Collaborative Divorce process fail and the parties proceed to litigation.

A court cannot require the parties to submit to the collaborative process if either party objects. Further, a court cannot mandate that a party remain in the process of the party wants to terminate the Collaborative Divorce process. Either spouse may end the process at any time.

Collaborative Divorce can be a wonderful method for spouses to use to bring their divorce to a quicker, less acrimonious, and less costly resolution than many other methods of resolving a divorce. We have extensive experience with this process and are ready to answer your questions. Call us today at (253) 272-9459 for an appointment to talk about your case.

When Should You Mediate Your Divorce?

Although the divorce rate seems to always be increasing and “contested” child custody cases feel exceedingly common, the majority of family law cases are settled out of court.  Some cases settle on their own, but many cases go to mediation.  Mediation is a process during which spouses/parents work out their differences with the assistance of a neutral third-party person called a mediator.  Mediation is an exceedingly helpful tool that has helped countless couples settle their differences and avoid expensive and prolonged litigation.  However, for mediation to be successful, it is important that mediation be conducted at the right time during the case.

Divorce and child custody proceedings almost always involve a high degree of emotion and sometimes anger and resentment.  Typically, these feelings are at an all-time high right when the case begins.  A strong likelihood exists that one or both spouses will not be ready to mediate right away.  Mediation requires that both people enter into the process with an attitude of cooperation.  The chaos and anger that frequently accompanies family cases usually does not lend itself to successful mediation sessions; emotions simply are too raw at this point.  Instead, mediation could first be considered once both spouses have “cooled down” and established a new sense of normalcy.

Mediating too soon also can mean that the spouses do not have all the information necessary to make good decisions about settlement arrangements.  Most divorces involve division of assets and debts.  Longer-term marriages also often involve complicated divisions of retirement and investment accounts or spousal support discussions.  Further, if the mediation is conducted before the process of discovery is completed, then the parties will not have yet exchanged all the information required for both spouses to approach a settlement proposal with all of the required information.  It is not necessary to always complete formal discovery before mediation if the spouses will voluntarily agree to exchange the necessary information.  This type of an agreement in and of itself is a good sign that the spouses are ready to sit down and sincerely attempt to create a complete a settlement agreement.

When children are involved, parents also need to be sensitive to the changing needs of the children in the new separated home life.  Children may need time to settle into new routines before parents can make proper suggestions at mediation about what type of residential schedule will be in the child’s best interest going forward.  Accordingly, allowing a child time to adjust to the “new normal” may be necessary before scheduling mediation.

Mediation is a wonderful tool to help spouses and parents settle a case, but it is important that it be conducted in the right way and at the right time.  Contact us today at (253) 272-9459 to discuss your case and to see if you are ready for mediation.

Is Collaborative Law Right for My Case?

Collaborative law is a very useful tool to resolve many types of family law cases. The process is specifically designed to provide an atmosphere of cooperation to eliminate the typical atmosphere of “us versus them” that is common in family disputes. Although commonly associated with divorce, collaborative law can be used to help resolve many types of family law disputes. Child support, child custody/parenting plan modifications, relocation, or post-divorce alimony modification can all benefit from the collaborative process. Collaborative law is good for a case when the parties are willing to engage in respectful and open discussions about their situation.

Collaborative law is also useful where the parties are committed to creating an agreement that is tailor-made for their particular situation. Parties to a divorce, for example, are often in the best position to have a complete and comprehensive understanding of their assets and debts. As such, it is easier and faster for spouses to come together to make a fair and sensible division.

Furthermore, parents are in the best position to make the determination on what would work best for their children. This often means that parents should put aside conflict to craft a parenting schedule that is based on their children’s specific needs, schedules, and personalities. Another benefit to using collaborative law in cases involving children is that it helps keep parental conflict to a minimum. Children are often deeply affected by such conflict, and any chance to eliminate turbulence or instability for the family is in the children’s best interest. Basically, any time parties want to come together to craft a unique and customized solution for their case, collaborative law is a good option.

In order for the process to work, both parties must be willing and ready to participate in collaborative law. Because collaborative law is premised on the idea that both parties provide information and work together, this cannot be done if one or both of the parties refuses to cooperate. So before you settle on collaborative divorce, honestly evaluate whether you believe you and the other party are able to set aside the emotional difficulties attached to your case and honestly work together.

Choosing collaborative law is a highly personal decision. Ken Levey is experienced and specially trained in collaborative law and can help you decide if it is right for your case. Contact us at (253) 272-9459, or email us at info@kleveylaw.com.

What to Expect from the Collaborative Divorce Process

Collaborative divorce is designed to help the divorce process be smoother and less adversarial. Knowing what to expect from the process can help you decide whether your case is right for collaboration. First, you and your spouse must both agree to involve yourselves freely and honestly to the process. If both parties are not committed to working together to create a settlement, the process will not function as it is designed to do.

After you and your spouse have agreed to participate in collaborative divorce, you will both need an attorney. Your attorney needs to be specially trained in collaborative law. When you discuss your case with your attorney before collaboration begins, you should discuss your goals for settlement, the issues you are not willing to compromise on, as well as the areas where you are flexible.

The collaborative process often takes places over a series of several different meetings. These meetings typically will alternate between the lawyers’ offices. At the beginning of the process, you, your spouse, and your attorneys will all be required to sign an agreement that provides in the event that collaboration fails, both you and your spouse will be required to hire new attorneys.

Further, both you and your spouse will agree to participate in the process in good faith, and agree to exchange documents and information. This information includes such documents such as financial statements, retirement account information, or proof of income. This trade of information is necessary to ensure any settlement agreement is fair and complete. Your lawyer will tell you before the first meeting what documents you will need to prepare and bring.

Other professionals may be involved. Depending on the particular needs of your case, these professionals could be financial experts, child therapists, or counselors working with your or your spouse. These professionals can provide guidance to you, your spouse, and your attorneys as to realistic settlement options for your case.

For example, your financial advisor can provide expert advice on tax implications of dividing a retirement account, or your child’s therapist can give important feedback on how a particular parenting time agreement is likely to affect your child.

When you and your spouse reach a settlement, the attorneys will draw up a document memorializing your agreement. The settlement will ultimately be incorporated into a court order when your divorce is finalized. This is what makes your agreement enforceable in court, should you later need to seek the court’s assistance in making sure all of the parts of the agreement are fulfilled.

If you have other questions about what to expect during collaborative divorce, we are here to help you prepare. Contact our office at (253) 272-9459, or email us at info@kleveylaw.com