What Is Collaborative Law?

Collaborative Law is a process that allows parties to come together with their attorneys and sometimes mental health and financial professionals. The process is intended to avoid going to court and focuses on finding a compromise that works for both parties. It is typically used in divorce, separation and other family matters, but can be used in business disputes and other situations as well.

One of the biggest differences is that instead of focusing on “winning” or taking something from the other party, the focus is finding a solution that is fair to both sides. This approach can be much more productive and result in a quicker settlement than going to court.

The process also tries to address the emotional side of a conflict. Too often in a court case, parties are arguing over things that have no monetary value and that are actually rooted in psychological pains. For example, you’ve likely heard of couples spending thousands in legal fees arguing over their pets or furniture that has no monetary value. The collaborative process seeks to bring those issues out in the open and have professionals available to help the parties through them.

A key part of the process is that both parties agree that they cannot use the collaboration process to threaten to go to court at any point in time. This is a crucial element that was originally spearheaded by a Minneapolis family lawyer named Stu Webb. He realized that a threat to go to court would ruin the spirit of the collaboration and cause his clients more harm than the initial divorce. This agreement, which is now the Collaborative Law Participation Agreement, outlines all of the requirements for the participants in the process.

Another requirement is that all communications during the collaborative process are confidential, and no materials or documents prepared during the process can be used in a lawsuit against either party. This is to ensure that the participants are not tempted to use the case against each other during the process, which could lead to bad faith negotiations and unfair settlements.

Lastly, the collaborative participants must sign a written agreement that states that they will not participate in any litigation against each other after the process is completed. This is to protect all parties from having to spend additional money and time on a litigation that was unnecessary in the first place.

If the collaborative process does not work, the lawyers must withdraw from the representation of their client. Although the clients can choose to go back to court, the lawyers are voluntarily excluding themselves from representing them and would need to be hired by new counsel. This is to protect the integrity of the process and to ensure that each participant has full knowledge of their options when the process ends. For these reasons, it is important for people considering collaborative law to find a team of experienced attorneys that can guide them through this unique and innovative dispute resolution process.