What is Collaborative Law?
Collaborative Law is a distinctly empowering way to resolve disputes. It is a constructive way to create agreements that work for everyone involved.
How does Collaborative Law differ from mediation?
In mediation, two parties hire one mediator and possibly two lawyers to facilitate discussion aimed at settlement. In Collaborative Law, both parties hire their own lawyers to work together openly and honestly to resolve the parties' dispute. In contrast to mediation, collaborative lawyers do give their clients legal advice that will support them in crafting solutions. The two lawyers work as a team together with their clients to problem solve. The Collaborative Law process includes meetings between parties and their lawyers, as well as joint sessions, during which everyone comes together to discuss solutions. Collaborative lawyers are not objective as a mediator, but rather involved and invested in finding a solution with integrity.
How is Collaborative Law different from conventional courtroom litigation?
Typically, conventional family law litigation can take anywhere from 12 to 24 months to reach a resolution, costs on average $20,000 per person, and fails to resolve all of the issues to the mutual satisfaction of both parties (there is a high likelihood of post-agreement litigation of subsequent issues.)
By contrast, the Collaborative Law process typically lasts between 4 and 8 months, costs an average of $6,000 per person (or between $10,000 and $15,000 total), and boasts a rate of less than 5% in post-agreement litigation of subsequent issues. Clients typically finish the process having experienced a relative “win-win” rather than feeling worn out and emotionally devastated by the adversarial battle often found in conventional litigation.
When is Collaborative Law not appropriate?
Collaborative Law may not be appropriate when there has been a history of violence, psychological abuse or in cases involving alcohol or drug abuse. If the two parties are in the midst of a high-conflict dispute or have a history of adversarial interaction, and are not willing to participate openly and honestly to reach a mutually beneficial settlement, the collaborative process will not be effective, and thus is not a suitable option.
What do Collaborative Law clients say about the collaborative process?
Collaborative Law clients often report that the process was one of cooperation and healing. Usually, the parties in a Collaborative Law process are very grateful to have avoided the destructive nature of conventional litigation.
What if my spouse/ex-spouse does not agree to proceed in the Collaborative Law process?
Both parties must agree to full participation in the Collaborative Law process. If one or both parties do not agree, then you will have to proceed via either the conventional approach to dispute resolution, or attempt an uncontested, amicable divorce, without the facilitated structure of Collaborative Law.
However, that being said, often times when divorcing spouses learn about the benefits of proceeding through the collaborative process, they are interested in learning more through a four-way meeting or, at the very least, a consultation with an experienced collaborative lawyer to find out if the collaborative process is a suitable fit for them.
Please see the King County Collaborative Law website for a list of lawyers in the area who practice collaboratively.
Download: My Own Collaborative Divorce—Information for My Spouse for a one-page printable overview of the Collaborative Law process
What type of solutions can be created through the Collaborative Law process?
This is the dynamic aspect of Collaborative Law. Thinking collaboratively, the parties can create agreements thinking “outside the box.” Rather than having a third party (such as a mediator or judge) who knows very little about you and will make decisions with which you will have to live for a long time, you have the freedom to custom tailor agreements to your lifestyle, and you can problem-solve without the pressure of a court hearing looming.