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:
- Not to litigate; and
- 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.