Collaborative Practice is a process of resolving disputes where participants work with a team of professionals to craft their own agreements. Clients work together in a respectful way, recognizing the importance of minimizing conflict for the interest of their children and others concerned about the family. Decisions are made by the participants without the involvement of a judge or other decision maker.
Collaborative Law, Collaborative Practice, Collaborative Process, and Collaborative Divorce are terms often used interchangeably. While "Collaborative Divorce" refers to resolution of particular types of disputes (divorce and domestic partnerships), the other terms can also apply to disputes involving employment law, probate law, construction law, real property law, and other civil law areas where the participants are likely to have continuing relationships after the current conflict has been resolved.
Typically clients and professionals meet together to plan for information gathering, make interim arrangements, and discuss issues. A team is assembled based on the participants' needs and can include attorneys, divorce coaches and child specialists (both roles are filled by mental health specialists), financial experts, and other professionals as needed. Information gathered is shared with both clients and team members in order to clarify each participant's interests and stimulate ideas for possible solutions. All communications made during the Collaborative Process remain confidential and will not be used as evidence if the case later goes to court.
A settlement which meets the approval of both clients can then be fashioned. This method of negotiating divorce is designed to reduce conflict and allow the participants the possibility of a civil and cordial relationship in the future. If the parties share children, the goal also includes creating an effective parenting plan which can guide the co-parenting relationship in healthy ways now and in the future.
Collaborative Practice embodies one important principle: all clients and collaborative professionals agree at the outset that the parties will negotiate the terms of their settlement directly; they will not be contested in court. If the parties cannot reach agreement, the attorneys and other professionals must withdraw, and the attorneys will assist the participants in finding new attorneys to help them settle the case through the traditional court system. Even in these cases some groundwork will have been laid for a more effective way of clients working together in the future.
In summary, Collaborative Practice is about working together to resolve differences in a constructive fashion. It is about rising above our differences to find resolutions that are reasonable and equitable, satisfy all parties, and prevent the lasting acrimony so often associated with litigation.
The MCPC is an organization of lawyers, licensed mental health clinicians, experts in financial analysis and planning, and other professionals dedicated to resolving conflict through collaborative means and devoted to helping our clients reach amicable settlements of disputes through creative problem solving and compromise.