The Collaborative Approach is known as “the clients’ process.” You’ll choose this approach when you desire to work out your family differences face to face with your lawyer by your side to develop the best family contract. Clients are empowered to work together ~ to collaborate ~ learning about each other’s concerns, needs, and wishes. The Collaborative Approach begins with a written commitment by each spouse and their lawyers to be transparent and communicate in productive fashion. With full financial disclosure up front, and a mutual sharing of urgent and long-term goals and desires, you’ll pool reasonable, practical, and viable options. You’ll discuss the risks, advantages, and consequences with your lawyers beside you to find a fair, durable solution. Putting the pieces together with trusted guidance, strategy, and professional advice means the job is done properly and with a solid resolution everyone will be satisfied with.
Best-Suited Client: Settlement-Focused
The Collaborative Approach is a dignified family-friendly approach to negotiating settlements designed to keep families out of the courtroom. You’ll select this process because you want to resolve problems not only for yourself but with the needs of the children managed up front. You value relationships for the future. You want to express your concerns and wishes directly to your partner or spouse with the support and legal advice of your lawyer, who remains beside you at all times.
The focus is on the future, not a rehashing of past disagreements. There may be differences of opinion expressed and difficult subjects discussed. Life happens. By taking the time at the beginning of the Collaborative Approach to agree to communication guidelines such as one speaker at a time—a simple but effective rule—everyone will be heard. Views and preferences of each client will be considered and balanced with the best interests of the children. Financial needs will be canvassed and understood with the economic consequences of each decision along the way. The meetings with both of you and both lawyers take place in a safe environment, meaning that no threats or coercive tactics will be used to direct an unacceptable arrangement. Mistakes are disclosed and corrected.
The Flexible, Creative Collaborative Approach
You will each separately retain your own collaboratively trained family law lawyer. Working confidentially with your lawyer, you will tell your own story, and explain what you wish to accomplish. Your lawyer will develop strategies with you to develop the essential provisions to complete your best family contract.
The Collaborative Approach has five steps:
- Review and sign the Participation Agreement which sets out each participant’s responsibility to the process and to each other.
- Share financial information: complete sworn financial statements with supporting documentation; jointly arrange for necessary impartial advisors such as business, pension, and land valuations, as needed.
- Propose viable settlement options, verify or eliminate assumptions, and develop a consensus.
- Evaluate consequences of the best options for settlement for each family member over time.
- Agree on terms for a comprehensive and mutually satisfying settlement; draft and sign the best family agreement.
Sometimes new information will be needed to respond to an inquiry; sometimes it will be time to caucus with your lawyer privately; or invite a mediator to step in for a complex matter before other issues can be considered. Flexibility and creative options in the Collaborative Approach allow for exploring your family’s unique circumstances and how best to confidently settle for the long term.
Cost is an important factor, and so is getting good value for each dollar spent. Bringing in neutral advisors to be engaged by both spouses complements the lawyers’ combined experience and simply makes good economic sense.
You’ll appreciate the long-term cooperative value in jointly retaining, when needed:
• an impartial family advisor to assist them:
– to keep communication flowing at group meetings; for example, if emotions begin to obstruct the process
– to help recognize and remove any roadblocks if they occur
• a neutral financial advisor to provide:
– proper calculations for child and spousal support
– plain-language explanations of potential tax consequences to various settlement proposals
– equalization of the “knowledge” so both clients understand the financial aspects
• the collaboratively trained business valuator who can help:
– introduce a shareholder agreement provision to divest business interests upon separation
– explain the intricacies of the business to the silent-partner spouse
– find an alternative benefit by satisfying an equalization payment while keeping the business viable
– offer advice relating to the sale, partition or reorganization of the business
The focused, concerted effort by you to explore together the best future for your family often results in a very positive experience for each of you and a satisfying result. A separation agreement incorporating all the terms reached in settlement is drafted by the lawyers in the Collaborative Approach. Throughout the negotiation process you will receive from your lawyer, as your spouse or partner will receive from their lawyer, ongoing comprehensive, private legal advice to as the nature and consequences of the agreed terms.
Success of a full settlement—including, sometimes, a reconciliation of the spouses—reaches a rate of about 96% of the clients using the Collaborative Approach. The partial settlement rate where almost all issues are resolved is about 2%. Lorisa has witnessed clients realizing that their relationship has more value to them than they realized and took steps to reconcile.