Your Top 7 Questions About Collaborative Divorce

Your Top 7 Questions About Collaborative Divorce

Collaborative law was founded by Stuart Webb, a family law attorney from Minneapolis. In 1989, his frustration with how the family court system often inflicted more harm on families than the divorce itself led him to develop this innovative approach to alternative dispute resolution. Today, collaborative law has evolved into a globally practiced discipline, extending well beyond the realm of family law, and is used frequently in Seattle divorces.

1. What is collaborative law?

The collaborative method represents a distinct form of alternative dispute resolution that operates outside the traditional courtroom setting. What sets it apart from other alternative dispute resolution approaches, despite sharing the common objective of achieving mutually acceptable solutions, is its team-based nature. In the collaborative process, all parties essentially work together as a unit.

As a result, the collaborative approach fosters more amicable discussions. This is in contrast to the typical adversarial dynamic where one client is pitted against the other. This is especially true when disputes escalate to the point they reach the courtroom. 

To create a more amicable playing field, participants in the collaborative process commit to the following principles:

  • They pledge to treat each other with respect throughout all interactions.

  • They commit in good faith to disclose all relevant information pertaining to the matter.

  • They agree to reach an agreement without involving a judge.

  • They undertake not to resort to threats of court action.

  • They promise that if the collaborative process breaks down for any reason and judicial intervention becomes necessary to resolve disputes, both attorneys will withdraw from the case.

They consent to the admissibility in court of all communications and documents prepared in connection with the collaborative process if the need arises.

2. What does a collaboratively trained lawyer do?

A collaborative attorney is a legal professional who goes through training in the collaborative process. Their primary objective is to approach any matter, such as a divorce, with a non-adversarial mindset. This involves the following key responsibilities:

Avoiding Adversarial Tactics 

A fundamental aspect of the collaborative attorney’s role is a commitment to refraining from adversarial tactics. Instead, they focus on fostering cooperation and open communication.

Assisting Clients With Their Needs and Goals 

Collaborative attorneys work closely with their clients in order to identify their individual needs and both short- and long-term goals pertaining to the issue at hand. This understanding guides the resolution process.

Generating Innovative Solutions 

Collaborative attorneys strive to propose innovative solutions their clients may not have previously considered. This creative approach helps facilitate mutually agreeable resolutions.

Collaborating with Peers and Professionals 

Collaborative attorneys collaborate with their counterparts and other collaborative professionals involved in the case. Their aim is to collectively work toward an agreement that prioritizes the well-being of the entire family.

Presenting Clear Client Communication

Collaborative attorneys play a vital role in translating complex legal matters into layman’s terms for their clients. This helps clients comprehend the developments during the collaborative process, as the decisions made are as binding as those in a courtroom setting.

Document Preparation and Filing 

Collaborative attorneys are responsible for preparing and filing court documents to formalize any agreements reached through the collaborative process. This increases the likelihood that any agreements are properly documented and legally binding.

A collaborative team can also include finance and mental health professionals. Your Seattle collaborative attorney can offer guidance on selecting the most suitable professionals from their network to complement your specific case. 

3. Why choose collaborative divorce?

The primary objective of the collaborative process is to reach outcomes that address the needs of both parties and the family unit as a whole. It serves as a safeguard against the unpredictability and unfamiliar judgments that can result from courtroom litigation, where a judge wields full decision-making authority and has limited time to assess the intricacies of the case. The collaborative process places settlement as its core objective rather than litigation, fostering an environment of non-adversarial discussions.

Moreover, the collaborative process in Seattle divorces assists couples in defining their desires and requirements for themselves and their family. It guides them toward a settlement that incorporates these elements so each party can walk away with a resolution they find satisfactory. 

Finally, the collaborative approach seeks to educate the parties involved about the skills necessary for their post-divorce life, particularly when co-parenting. Among these crucial skills are effective communication and conflict resolution.

4. Are you a good candidate for a collaborative divorce?

A client is considered a suitable candidate for a Seattle collaborative divorce when they meet certain criteria and are willing to engage in the collaborative process. The following are key factors that potentially make a client a good fit for collaborative divorce:

Willingness to Collaborate 

The most important factor is the client’s willingness to engage in a cooperative and non-adversarial process. Both parties must commit to working together to reach a mutually agreeable resolution.

Good Faith and Open Communication 

Clients should be open to honest and transparent communication. They must be willing to share information and engage in constructive dialogue with the other party.

Respectful Behavior

Clients should be respectful of each other and the professionals involved in the process. They should avoid engaging in hostile or antagonistic behavior.

Interest in a Fair Settlement

Clients should have a genuine interest in reaching a fair and equitable settlement. They should be focused on finding solutions that benefit both parties and the family as a whole.

Complexity of Issues

Collaborative divorce is often appropriate in cases where the issues are not highly contentious or complex. It may not be the best option for cases involving severe power imbalances, domestic violence, or situations where one party is unwilling to cooperate.

Commitment to Avoiding Litigation 

Clients should have a strong desire to avoid going to court. In a collaborative divorce, both parties and their respective attorneys must agree to withdraw from the process if litigation becomes necessary, so a commitment to the collaborative approach is paramount.

Interest in Co-Parenting

Collaborative divorce can be particularly beneficial for couples with children, as it emphasizes cooperative co-parenting and communication skills.

Availability of Collaborative Professionals

It is necessary that both parties have access to collaboratively trained attorneys and, if appropriate, other professionals such as financial experts or mental health specialists.

Financial Transparency

Clients should be willing to provide full and accurate financial information. Transparency regarding assets, income, and debts is crucial to reaching a fair financial settlement.

Emotional Readiness

Divorce is an emotional process, and clients should be emotionally prepared to engage in the collaborative process. It may be helpful for clients to have emotional support outside of the collaborative team.

It is important to note that the suitability for collaborative divorce in Seattle can vary from case to case, and it is essential for clients to consult with a Washington state collaboratively trained attorney to determine if this approach is the right fit for their specific circumstances.

5. Can a collaborative divorce still be settled out of court if the parties choose not to use this method later?

In the collaborative divorce process, both parties and their attorneys sign a participation agreement that commits them to resolving the issues without going to court. This agreement typically includes a provision stating that if either party decides to litigate the divorce and take it to court, the collaborative attorneys must withdraw from the case. This is a fundamental principle of the collaborative process and serves as a strong incentive for all parties to work toward a settlement collaboratively.

If, at any point during the collaborative divorce process, one or both parties decide they no longer wish to pursue a collaborative approach and prefer to go to court, the collaborative process will come to an end. At that point, both parties would need to hire new attorneys to represent them in the litigation process.

The key to having a successful collaborative divorce in Seattle is the commitment of all parties involved to work together in order to reach a mutually agreeable settlement outside of court. If that commitment breaks down, the collaborative process is no longer a suitable option, and traditional litigation may be pursued in its place.

It is essential for Seattle couples considering a collaborative divorce to understand the terms of the participation agreement and the potential consequences of ending the collaborative process. If there are doubts or concerns about the collaborative approach, discussing them with a Washington state collaboratively trained attorney can provide clarity and guidance on the best course of action for the specific situation.

6. How much does a collaborative divorce cost compared to a traditional divorce?

There can be additional costs associated with a collaborative divorce as compared to the traditional divorce process. While collaborative divorce in Seattle can be cost-effective in many cases, there are some unique expenses to consider:

Professional Fees

Collaborative divorce typically involves the use of collaboratively trained attorneys for both parties and possibly other professionals such as financial experts or mental health specialists. Their fees should be included as part of the overall cost.

Meeting Expenses

Collaborative divorce often involves multiple meetings between the parties, their attorneys, and any other professionals who get involved. These meetings may incur charges for the time spent in discussions and negotiations.

Mediation Fees

If the collaborative process includes mediation sessions, there may be fees associated with hiring a mediator, a neutral third party who helps to facilitate discussions.

Additional Experts

In some cases, experts such as appraisers, child specialists, or forensic accountants may be needed to assess specific issues. Their fees could be an additional cost.

Document Preparation and Filing

Just like in traditional divorce, there are document preparation and filing fees that need to be paid to the court.

Miscellaneous Expenses

There can be other miscellaneous expenses, such as costs associated with gathering financial documents, travel expenses for meetings if parties live far away from each other, and any expenses related to securing expert opinions or evaluations.

While there may be added costs associated with the collaborative divorce process, it can potentially save money compared to a litigated divorce if there is cooperation and mutual agreement among the parties that leads to a quicker resolution. The overall cost of a collaborative divorce in Seattle will vary from case to case and can depend on the case’s complexity, the number of professionals involved, and the specific needs of the parties.

Before embarking on a collaborative divorce, it is best to discuss fees and expenses with your Washington state collaboratively trained attorney to get a clear understanding of the financial aspects of the process as it will apply to your case. Additionally, you can create a budget and an agreement with the other party as to how you plan to share the costs of the collaborative process, further promoting transparency and fairness.

7. How can you find a Seattle collaborative law attorney?

A collaborative divorce in Seattle involves a collaboratively trained attorney. So, when embarking on the process, it is smart to verify that your attorney has the appropriate training. 

At Elise Buie Family Law, we have collaboratively trained attorneys on our team who have achieved successful outcomes for many of our divorce clients. If you are interested in learning more about whether a collaborative divorce is right for your situation, call our Seattle team of family lawyers today


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