Collaborative law governs the process under which two parties agree to resolve their legal problems amicably and avoid the court at all costs. Under collaborative law, the parties and their attorneys sign a participation agreement signifying their intent to work with, rather than fight, each other. Because the premise of collaborative law is out-of-court settlement, the process will be terminated and the attorneys of both parties will be disqualified from the process.
The collaborative law process may have different nuances in each state, but there are commonalities, foremost of which is the parties' and the attorneys' agreement to not go to court. The goal of the collaborative law process is for each party to win at the end of the process, thus each party agrees to honestly disclose all materials needed to resolve their disputes, share experts, and respect each other. This means that one party will not make the error of another party a basis to strengthen his case. Rather, both parties will aim to identify errors and correct those errors. This is in contrast with the adversarial nature of litigation where parties typically hide documents from each other and hire experts to destroy the other's arguments. In divorce proceedings, where the collaborative law process is commonly utilized, the parties agree to insulate the children from the process and will agree to come up with terms that will have least impact on the children. Both parties, under the collaborative law parties, agree to share the costs of experts and other expenses.
It is important to note that one of the difficulties in the collaborative law process is the agreement not to go to court. Especially in divorce proceedings where the issues are sensitive and one party may have been emotionally hurt by the other party, it is difficult not to be adversarial. This is exactly the reason why it is important to seek the counsel of collaborative law attorneys who are trained to take into consideration the sufferings that each party are experiencing so that an amicable solution will be reached. Collaborative law attorneys are also in the know as to the experts needed to bring to the table to help the parties in all areas of their disputes. These experts could include psychologists, financial advisors, accountants, counselors, etc. The most important expert that would be brought to the table would be a child specialist as one of the goals of the collaborative law process is to insulate the children. Bringing in a child specialist is important in order for the child to be assured that, at the end of the divorce, he will lose neither parents. Moreover, seeking the help of a child specialist would help the child gain a voice in the proceeding, so that the parties will be able to view the disputes from the child's perspective and gain insights from the child as to the solution.
Not all legal disputes can be resolved through the collaborative law process. Statistics, however, show that those who employed the collaborative law process reached a settlement earlier than those who choose to settle their disputes in court. Court proceedings are not just lengthy and emotionally-taxing. They are also financially draining. In a collaborative law process, costs are kept at bay because the parties, which include the collaborative law attorneys, work hand-in-hand to a settlement.