Collaborative Law is a process by which the parties to a potential civil action, embark upon a civil and amicable negotiation, in the combined hope that it can be resolved without the intervention of the courts. In a civil action, the Collaborative approach may be preferred because it has the potential to allow the parties to prevent harm to the reputation of one or the other, should the litigation make its way into the public forum, or perhaps to preserve the integrity of a business or professional relationship. In a divorce, Collaborative Law allows the possibility of a quiet and cost effective separation of assets facilitated by a team of high caliber professionals. In either case, a Collaborative Team is typically designed to accomplish the goal of achieving a resolution under terms agreeable and equitable to all parties involved. Each State has their own rules and regulations governing the practice of Collaborative Law, and each may work slightly differently. In Massachusetts, the team would be chosen from a pool of available professionals authorized to practice in certain fields with training in collaborative methods, and will typically be made up of the following:
Attorney– each party will choose an attorney so that their interests are represented in an equally competent manner. Each attorney will be trained and authorized as Collaborative professional, and will be familiar with the process and competent to advise the parties.
Collaborative Coach/Facilitator– each party can choose a coach/facilitator to help them deal approach the emotional components of the action. Typically, coaches are comprised of available therapists, counselors, psychiatrists, licensed clinical social workers, or other mental health professionals trained to navigate the non-legal aspects of typical cases.
Financial Neutral– In a civil action, this is a professional, jointly chosen by the parties, who is charged with the duties of making expert assessments as to the value of businesses, advice on issues of taxation, and other financial dynamics potentially experienced by each side of a particular issue. In a divorce setting, this person might have the duty of evaluating the investments and jointly owned property of the marriage, and tactically negotiating an agreed upon settlement of those assets that is equitable for both parties. These professionals are typically financial advisors, accountants, or others within the financial services industry.
How Does it Work?
The primary goal of Collaborative Law is to allow for an equitable resolution for each party, while still allowing a great deal of control over the time and expense of the outcome. Litigation is a very expensive and time-consuming process. Many times, even if a party finds that they “win” in litigation, there are things that cannot be replaced by money. If a case takes two years, or five years, or ten years to resolve, there is no amount of money that can replace the time and emotional energy expended by every person involved in taking that case form start to finish. Collaborative Law changes this by asking the parties to enter into an agreement to resolve the case outside of court so that if the negotiation breaks down and someone begins a litigated case, the parties are not able to use the professionals they have hired for the Collaborative process. In agreeing to this, the parties commit from the outset, to work alongside the team members specified above, in order to bring about a full and final resolution to the issue. Because of this, parties can often achieve resolution much more quickly, than if they had sought relief in a court, and at a fraction of the cost of litigation on both sides. Additionally, things can be negotiated in a Collaborative Law setting that could never be achieved in a courtroom. Ultimately though, the beauty of Collaborative Law, is that the parties retain complete control over the terms to which they agree, and they never relinquish that control to a judge. In this way, the unknown, unknown, is off the table. It is not possible to win or lose your case based on the kind of day the judge is having or based on whether or not the judge favors one type of plaintiff or defendant over another. There is no room for judicial bias or control over a Collaborative Law resolution.
Is Collaborative Law Right for Me?
The honest answer depends on what you desire as an outcome, and what the nature of the relationship among the parties to your case. If both sides have a mutual interest in seeing the issue resolved in the fastest and most efficient way possible, a Collaborative Law approach could be exactly what you need. If you have further questions or concerns about the Collaborative Law process, feel free to call our law office and speak with an attorney.