The collaborative law process has been a welcome alternative to the traditional court/litigation practice commonly used by divorcing couples. It promotes respect, places the needs of children first and keeps control of the process with the spouses. You're invited to explore the collaborative law process, a different way of divorcing that can help you make a healthy, hopeful transition from one stage of your life to the next.

What is Collaborative Law?

Minnesota attorney, Stu Webb, developed this alternative process for resolving family issues in 1990 to give spouses a way to end their marriages cooperatively, face-to-face, with the help and guidance of attorneys, but without going to court. He has said, "Collaborative law is the art and practice of settling cases with legal counsel, but without court intervention at any stage."

All negotiations take place in four-way conferences between parties and their attorneys. Each party has built-in legal advice and advocacy during negotiations and each attorney is committed to guiding the parties toward a reasonable settlement. Because no one, neither the parties and nor the attorneys, can go to court or threaten to go to court, settlement is the only goal. The parties are encouraged and helped to communicate their real needs and interests. Through safe and focused discussions, each of the parties is encouraged to recognize the needs of their children and the needs and interests of the other party.

Although Collaborative Process comes in several models, it is distinguished from traditional litigation by its inviolable core elements. These elements are set out in a contractual commitment among the clients and their chosen collaborative professionals to:
  • negotiate a mutually acceptable settlement without using court to decide any issues for the clients
  • withdrawal of the professionals if either client goes to court
  • engage in open communication and information sharing, and
  • create shared solutions that take into account the highest priorities of both clients.

The advantages of being Collaborative.

Designed as an alternative to conventional divorce, the collaborative process offers many distinct advantages:
  • You keep control of the process yourselves, without going to court.
  • Children's needs are given priority.
  • You and your partner commit to reaching agreement through a problem-solving approach.
  • An atmosphere of respect preserves self esteem.
  • Open communication allows both of you to express your needs for moving forward and gives you new tools for effective problem-solving in the future.
  • There is full disclosure of facts and information.
  • Face-to-face meetings in the presence of lawyers make negotiations direct and efficient and allow for mutually created resolutions.
  • The Collaborative process helps both of you plan for your own future and that of your children, and to begin new lives for all of you.

Is it for you?
Many couples have found that the collaborative process is a welcome alternative to the potentially destructive aspects of conventional divorce. To determine if the collaborative practice is right for you, ask yourself if these values are important:
  • Maintaining an atmosphere of respect, even in the presence of disagreements.
  • When the parties have children, prioritizing their needs.
  • Listening objectively to your spouse's needs, fully expecting that your own needs will be given equal consideration.
  • Working creatively and cooperatively to solve issues.
  • Seeing beyond the frustration and pain of the present moment to plan for the future.
  • Behaving in an ethical manner toward your spouse.
  • Keeping control of the divorce process with you and your spouse, and not relegating it to the court system.

If you can affirm these basic principles, it is likely that the collaborative practice would be a viable option for you. Talk to a Collaborative professional for a more in-depth determination based on your individual situation.