Families in legal disputes often say they want to handle the matter amicably, respectfully, cooperatively, or collaboratively. There are a variety of alternative dispute resolution process options to achieve this goal. Collaborative Practice is one specific process with the following priorities:
- A voluntary, open exchange of information;
- A respect for the goals of both parties and the needs of the family;
- An agreement not to involve the courts while the process is underway.
Who are the Professionals in a Collaborative Team?
In a Collaborative case, a team of professionals guides the parties through resolving their dispute. Professionals in the Collaborative team include:
- An attorney for each party to address the legal issues and prepare legal documents;
- A financial neutral (often a CPA or certified financial planner) to discuss financial issues and options;
- Mental health professional(s) to coach the parties on constructive communication and goal setting; and
- A child specialist to help communicate the needs of any children in the family.
What Process does a Collaborative Case Follow?
The team will follow a specific process to reach resolution:
- Expressing goals;
- Identifying the issues;
- Brainstorming possible options;
- Gathering and sharing information;
- Evaluating the options; and
- Reaching resolutions.
This method of problem-solving takes place while both parties are present and have the opportunity to hear legal, financial, and mental health advice of the team. This empowers both parties to make fully informed decisions on the outcomes of the case. If the parties can’t reach a resolution on an issue, the process will go back to an earlier step to find a new path to follow which addresses the goals of the parties.
In a Collaborative case, the parties have the authority to make a resolution that suits the unique needs of their family. They have the opportunity to consider creative solutions with the benefit of legal, financial, and mental health advice in a secure setting without the threat of court looming. A pillar of the Collaborative process is voluntary, open exchange of information, so nothing said in the Collaborative sessions can be used as evidence in any potential future court case except for certain limited and uncommonly-faced exceptions.
Is the Collaborative Process Right for Me?
While the Collaborative process is a successful dispute resolution method for many people, it is not for everyone. If you are considering the Collaborative process, you may find it helpful to ask yourself the following questions to assess the appropriateness of the Collaborative process for your family, and then have the other party do the same:
- Can you have a constructive conversation in the same room with the other party?
- Do you trust the other party will divulge all information that may affect your decisions?
- Are you willing to sign an agreement that you will not go to court during the Collaborative process?
- Are you willing to retain attorneys specifically trained in the Collaborative process?
- Are you able to consider matters from the point of view of the other party?
- Is it your goal to have respectful communication with the other party after the case is resolved?
If you and your spouse answered YES to all of the questions above, the Collaborative Process may be a good fit for you. Stiles Ewing Powers has several Collaborative attorneys who can assist you with your case. If you answered NO to any of these questions or are unsure, the attorneys of Stiles Ewing Powers are still able to help. We are skilled at resolving disputes, both in and outside of court, and we can guide you in selecting the process that best suits your needs. Learn more about our attorneys here.
For more information about Collaborative practice, see the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals website.