What is Collaborative Divorce?

You may be asking yourself, what is collaborative divorce? The Law Firm of Charles D. Jamieson, P.A. believes that divorce is a sensitive personal matter. We believe no single approach is right for everyone. Our purpose is to treat each client as unique and guide them towards and through the process that will best work for them and their family. Collaborative Divorce is not right for everyone, but if you and your spouse have reached an agreement to pursue a divorce, and find the following values important, then a Collaborative Divorce approach might be right for you:

Are These Values Important to You?

  1. Respect for each other and acting respectful towards each other is important, even when in disagreement.
  2. The priority of our children’s best interest and that they end up OK at the conclusion of the divorce needs to come first.
  3. Consideration and discussions need to occur regarding my needs and those of my spouse.
  4. I believe that working creatively and cooperatively solves issues.
  5. Frustration and emotional pain in the present are inevitable, but I value more the planning for my future.
  6. I may disagree with my spouse but will not compromise on honesty.
  7. I value shared control of the result or conclusion of the divorce process with my spouse, rather than relegating it to the courts.

What is Collaborative Divorce?

What is Collaborative Divorce Approach and Mediation?

In mediation, an impartial third party (the mediator) assists the negotiations of both parties and tries to help settle your case. However, the mediator cannot give either of you legal advice or be an advocate for either side. If there are lawyers for each of you, they may or may not be present during the mediation sessions, but if they are not present, then you can consult them between mediation sessions. When there’s an agreement, the mediator prepares a draft of the settlement terms for review and editing by both you and your lawyers.

Collaborative Practice allows you both to have lawyers present throughout the meetings that make up the collaborative processes to keep settlement as the top priority. The lawyers, who have training in Collaborative Divorce, work with their clients, one another, and the neutral experts, to assure a balanced process that’s positive and productive. When there is agreement, a document is drafted by the lawyers, and reviewed and edited by you both until everyone is satisfied.

Both Collaborative Practice and mediation rely on voluntary, free exchange of information and commitment to resolutions respecting everyone’s shared goals. If mediation doesn’t result in a settlement, you may choose to use your counsel in litigation. In Collaborative Practice, the lawyers and parties sign an agreement aligning everyone’s interests in resolution. It specifically states that the collaborative attorneys and other professional team members are disqualified from participating in litigation if the collaborative process ends without reaching an agreement. Your choice of mediation or Collaborative Practice should be made with professional advice.

Interest Based Bargaining is less Adversarial…

Lawyers who practice Collaborative Divorce are trained in interest based bargaining (sometimes referred to as “needs” based bargaining). Interest based bargaining is a method of negotiating that focuses on acknowledging or meeting the major underlying concerns, needs or interests of all of the parties involved in the negotiation. The parties are encouraged to communicate what is important about an issue rather than offering an argument to support a specific position or outcome on an issue. Since interest based bargaining encourages the parties to exchange perspectives and feelings, cooperation is fostered. The benefit to the client are negotiations that are less contentious, and far more rapid progress can be made towards solutions and a final agreement. Clients also realize a sense of empowerment for having played an active role in obtaining the solution rather than being handed a decision they had no control over.

Position-based or positional bargaining is the traditional method of bargaining. The parties each commit to a position early in the process determined by their own wants and needs. It is an adversarial method of bargaining and pits the parties against one another. With position based bargaining, opposing sides argue a position to meet a standard of acceptance based on the strength of the evidence they can produce or simply based on the strength of their desire, anger, or embarrassment. Each side is allowed to challenge the other parties veracity and, if litigated, cross examine each other.

Your Lawyer’s Role

Within the Collaborative Divorce process, both spouses receive the support, protection and guidance of their own lawyers. Your lawyer is not impartial or neutral, so your selection process for retaining a lawyer for a Collaborative Divorce should follow the same selection process that you would make as with any legal issue you face. However, Collaborative Law is a relatively new concept. Many attorneys are not even familiar with it. Most lawyers who have been trained in Collaborative Family Law will have membership in an incorporated independent association (a Collaborative Law Group Practice) and/or belong to a professional association such as the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals. For the Collaborative Divorce process, you and your spouse will both need to retain attorneys, preferably attorneys who have been specifically trained in Collaborative Family Law.

In Collaborative Family Law, the parties and their attorneys enter into a Participation Agreement, which provides that they will facilitate a fair and reasonable settlement without resorting to litigation. If any party to this agreement breaches the contract, there are severe consequences. BOTH attorneys must withdraw. They cannot take the case to trial and earn additional fees. The parties themselves would need to retain new attorneys and incur additional fees and possible court costs. Any of the experts that participated in the process would also be required to remove themselves from further involvement. Collaborative Family Law works because, very simply, it is in everyone’s best interests to fully participate, cooperate, and resolve the issues and enter into an Agreement.

You will meet privately with your Collaborative Divorce lawyer in order to prioritize your goals and to identify and investigate the issues surrounding your situation. As your advocate, the Collaborative Divorce lawyer will help you to anticipate conflict and ensure you are well informed of your legal rights and obligations. As the process unfolds, you will meet face-to-face with your spouse and their Collaborative Divorce lawyer. Additional experts, such as divorce coaches and child and financial specialists, may join the process depending on the particulars of your situation. All meetings are intended to produce an accurate and complete exchange of information and clear understanding about needs and expectations, especially concerning the well-being of your children. Mutual problem-solving by all parties leads to the final divorce agreement. The process is very much a team effort!

How Do You Start A Collaborative Divorce?

The Collaborative Divorce Approach is based upon three basic tenets:

  • The voluntary and full exchange of information.
  • A mutual pledge not to litigate (go to court).
  • A commitment to mutual respect.

The parties would need to discuss and agree to pursue their divorce pursuant to these principles. Spouses may have significantly different positions on many issues, but agreement on the basic tenets of the approach largely determines success. In fact, couples with wide ranging disagreements may benefit most from the Collaborative Divorce approach since they can avoid the damage caused by traditional adversarial litigation processes.

If both parties agree to participate in Collaborative Divorce, each party will then choose a Collaborative Divorce lawyer. Go here for a directory of trained Collaborative Family Law Attorneys in Palm Beach County.

You will have an initial meeting with the Collaborative Divorce lawyer to review the background of the case and your concerns and goals. Your Collaborative Divorce lawyer will ensure that there are no barriers to the process such as abuse, safety issues, honesty, or mental health concerns. To start, you will need to retain your Collaborative Divorce lawyer. A draft copy of the Participation Agreement will be provided and your attorney will contact your spouse’s Collaborative Divorce attorney to arrange and share information about your case. In advance of the first team meeting, the Collaborative Divorce lawyers will share information including the disclosure of documents – this means that no information is hidden and each party has agreed to complete disclosure.

My Spouse Filed a Petition for Dissolution of Marriage, is it Too Late to Start a Collaborative Divorce?

No, it is not too late! However, it is best if your spouse dismisses the action since it is an unnecessary temptation to default to litigation. The action can also be abated while you and your spouse proceed with the Collaborative Divorce process.

I Have Already Hired an Attorney, is Collaborative Divorce no Longer an Option?

If you have already retained counsel for your divorce, we suggest discussing the Collaborative Divorce option with your attorney as soon as possible because the Collaborative Divorce process works best before litigation has begun. Your divorce attorney may not be familiar with Collaborative Family Law or may not have formal training in the Collaborative Divorce process. If this is so, then we would recommend that your divorce attorney review this website, or the website of a local Collaborative Law Group Practice, or you are welcome to have your divorce attorney contact Charles Jamieson directly at 561-478-0312 for more information.

Collaborative Divorce Cost

As with almost any legal proceeding, each situation will be unique to the client, the complexity of their situation, their needs, and objectives, so it is difficult to generalize costs. Collaborative Divorce is not inexpensive; it is definitely far less expensive than if a divorce was to go to trial. Of course, we are talking strictly in terms of dollars. In addition, the Collaborative Divorce Process may very well produce a better value than say mediation, cooperative divorce, or litigation, given the objectives and results you and your spouse are trying to achieve and the complexity of the disagreements you face. Other benefits you should use when weighing the value should include: less negative effects on your children, shorter length of time, more control and empowerment for decision making, less emotional drain, and more opportunities to use creative, cooperative solutions. Collaborative Divorce is not right for everyone, or for all divorce cases, but for those spouses who identify with its values and process – there is not a better solution.

Cost: Collaborative Divorce vs. Mediation

An important factor to weigh when considering Mediation vs. Collaborative Divorce is that with Mediation your roles will be adversarial and position based – settlements may often represent the lowest common denominator that is agreeable to both parties. Certainly, Mediation is a good choice for many couples who have reached agreement on a number of issues and want a fast track divorce. To determine the true cost of either process, you must weigh the situation you face with the value either process will produce. When it comes to one of the biggest events in your life, money is an important factor, but not the only factor.

Make an Appointment with a Collaborative Divorce Attorney!

At the Law Firm of Charles D. Jamieson, we believe that many divorces or Family Law disputes can benefit from the structure, problem solving process, and negotiation methods found within Collaborative Law. Certainly many of the benefits, such as out-of-court settlements, privacy, mutual respect, creative solutions, goal alignment, and money and time savings translate to fewer disputes, cooperation, and happier futures for families having moved through this major life event through the Collaborative Approach. If you would like to speak with a formally trained Collaborative Divorce Attorney, we recommend that you set up an initial consultation with Attorney Charles Jamieson. We found the best way to offer initial consultations to our prospective clients was to make scheduling available 24 hours a day through an online appointment setting service. This gives you the convenience of setting an appointment with us whether or not our office is open. If you prefer, you are welcome to call 561/478-0312 during normal business hours to request an appointment. If you just have a quick question, we encourage you to email us via the online form.