FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions

 

  1. What is the difference between “Collaborative Law” and “Collaborative Practice”?
  2. What are the advantages of Collaborative Practice?
  3. What is a Collaborative Professional?
  4. How does the “disqualification provision” work?
  5. Is Collaborative Practice just for divorces?
  6. Why does the rule about not going to Court make such a big difference where the lawyers are concerned?
  7. Can all lawyers use Collaborative Law?
  8. What is meant by Collaborative Team?
  9. What about the Children?
  10. What is a Divorce Coach?
  11. What role does a Financial Professional play in Collaborative Practice?
  12. How do I persuade my spouse to use Collaborative Practice?
  13. My spouse already has a lawyer, a person who is not trained in Collaborative Law. What can I do?
  14. Does a Collaborative Practice divorce cost less?
  15. But isn’t it awfully expensive to hire all these other people?
  16. Which is better, Collaborative Practice or Mediation?
  17. Are there advantages to Collaborative Practice over Mediation?
  18. What cases are not suitable for Collaborative Practice?
  19. Does Collaborative Practice work for resolving other types of disputes than divorce or other family matters?

1. What is the difference between “Collaborative Law” and “Collaborative Practice”?

    There is no difference. Some groups use one term and some use the other. All involve the resolving of disputes out of court with the help of specially trained lawyers and (optionally) other professionals such as counselors and financial advisors.

2. What are the advantages of Collaborative Practice?

  • The clients, not the court, are in control of the process and outcome.
  • Each party is represented by a lawyer who provides them throughout the process with legal advice, but rather than do anything which might increase the conflict between the parties, both lawyers work with the clients toward settlement.
  • Without the distraction of preparing for litigation, because the lawyers are committed to settling the case without going to court.
  • The parties also have the option of getting help from coaches, financial professionals, and child specialists trained in Collaborative Practice who can assist them in dealing with conflict and negative emotions.

3. What is a Collaborative Professional?

    A Collaborative Professional is a person who has training in Collaborative Practice and agrees to follow certain principles which are meant to help people who are divorcing, or who are in disagreement for some other reason, to resolve their differences in a manner which is fair and which the parties have helped to create. Collaborative professionals avoid language that is accusatory, blame-oriented, critical or judgmental. The focus is on creative solutions and problem solving, rather than replaying the past issues or problems.

4. How does the “disqualification provision” work?

    If the Collaborative process breaks down, the lawyers have to withdraw. So do the coaches, parenting advisors, and financial professionals. The parties must hire new lawyers for litigation and obtain other support professionals. The result is that everyone is very much committed to making a success of the process.

5. Is Collaborative Practice just for divorces?

    No indeed. Divorce is just one family matter in which Collaborative Practice is valuable in settling disputes. There are also disputes between unmarried partners, disputes over parenting rights and responsibilities, and matters involving guardianships and probate estates. Collaborative dispute resolution works just as well in these cases. Not only that, but Collaborative Practice can be used to resolve disputes which are NOT between family members, such as employer/employee issues, business disputes, and landlord/tenant problems.

6. Why does the rule about not going to Court make such a big difference where the lawyers are concerned?

  • Lawyers are trained to go to Court. Without a rule preventing them from going to Court, the lawyers continue to look at the case with their “trial eyes,” to prepare what needs to be done next.
  • Although a lawyer involved in litigation can reach an out-of-Court settlement, such settlements rarely occur early on in the process. More often they happen “on the courthouse steps,” after the temporary hearing(s), the exchange of “Interrogatories,” and other ways of legally requiring disclosure of financial and other personal information. By this time, the divorce has cost much time and money, and caused many hard feelings.
  • In the traditional divorce case, impasses in settlement discussions usually lead to premature trial preparation, costing the parties more money and time. With Collaborative cases, impasses are not really impasses as the parties and lawyers get together to explore alternate ways to resolve the disputes.
  • Collaborative lawyers commit to work cooperatively with each other and never to “inflame the situation.”

7. Can all lawyers use Collaborative Law?

    Because of the vast difference from litigation, special training is required. In New Hampshire, all Collaborative Practice lawyers have at least one full day of special training in the technique.

8. What is meant by Collaborative Team?

    The Collaborative Team is comprised of the disputing parties, plus the group of professionals assembled to assist them to identify goals, methods, and solutions.  Using a team is an option in Collaborative Practice, not a requirement.  Not all disputing parties elect to use a team to help them resolve their disputes; however, using a team brings useful skills to support the family in transition, and can often make possible a much smoother and faster resolution.

9. What about the Children?

    Collaborative Practice is a good choice for parents who wish to minimize the impact of divorce on their children. It is also a good preparation for co-parenting in the future. The ethical standards for Collaborative Professions include encouraging parents to be mindful of the needs of their children.

10. What is a Divorce Coach?

    A Collaborative Coach is a licensed mental health professional who brings skills directed at constructive communication, management of difficult emotions, conflict resolution, child development, family dynamics, and co-parenting techniques. The Coach’s role on the collaborative team is to help participants prioritize their concerns, process their feelings and differences in healthy ways, stay focused on their goals by neutralizing or minimizing destructive emotions, communicate effectively with each other, with their lawyers, and with their children, and provide them with tools for positive co-parenting in their post-separation lives. The Coach assists the parties to move through this difficult life change with dignity, respect, mutual understanding, concern for their children’s welfare, and hope for their own futures.

11. What role does a Financial Professional play in Collaborative Practice?

    The Collaborative Financial Professional is a person with one or more financial certifications who acts as a neutral expert. He or she assists the parties in gathering and understanding relevant financial information (assets, debts, income, expenses). This includes how various scenarios for child support, alimony, and property division would play out over time.

12. How do I persuade my spouse to use Collaborative Practice?

    A “soft sell” is usually best. Give your spouse some information about Collaborative Practice. Suggest that he or she have an initial interview with one of the lawyers trained in Collaborative Practice. Ask him or her to google “collaborative law” or “collaborative practice.” The International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP) has a terrific website, which includes a “Collaborative Divorce Knowledge Kit.” Download it for free.

13. My spouse already has a lawyer, a person who is not trained in Collaborative Law. What can I do?

    Both parties must agree to use Collaborative Practice for the process to happen. This means that both parties must select lawyers trained in Collaborative Practice. Suggest that your spouse consider the Collaborative Practice option, and perhaps meet with a trained lawyer. If the lawyer your spouse has already consulted is interested in Collaborative Practice, he or she might inquire about obtaining the necessary training.

14. Does a Collaborative Practice divorce cost less?

    Reaching an agreement on all issues in the divorce always means less legal fees than litigation. This is true whatever route is taken to get to the agreement – Collaborative Practice, mediation or negotiation. With the traditional “negotiation” approach, the parties are still involved in the Court proceeding, and therefore, must attend several regularly scheduled hearings, even if they ultimately resolve the issues by agreement. Generally, it is the pressure of the Court process that “forces” the settlement. With Collaborative Practice, the parties do not waste their time or resources on the regularly scheduled hearings.

15. But isn’t it awfully expensive to hire all these other people?

    It does cost more to hire a coach, a child specialist, and a financial professional than it would cost to do without the assistance they can provide, but for many people the expense is well worth it. And in fact doing without them can easily cost more in other ways. For example, without a coach the parties and lawyers might have several collaborative meetings which make little or no progress because emotions get in the way. Or, they might get stuck on trying to work out a fair property division because they can’t see the future implications of the decisions they need to make. Bringing in appropriate team members makes the process work more efficiently. Even more important, they can assist the parties to create a foundation for long term cooperation with each other in the future, and a sense that a fair solution was reached.

16. Which is better, Collaborative Practice or Mediation?

    These are both excellent ways of settling disputes. The real question is, what method would work best in your case? In mediation, the parties work with a neutral mediator who assists them in making decisions. Each party can get advice from a lawyer, and support from a mental health professional, but this is usually outside of mediation. In Collaborative Practice, there is no neutral person; instead the parties work with their lawyers and other collaborative team members to resolve what they need to resolve. The team, rather than the neutral mediator, sets the agenda and manages the process. To use either mediation or Collaborative Practice, both parties must agree on the method.

17. Are there advantages to Collaborative Practice over Mediation?

  • As the clients negotiate, the lawyers are right there to assist clients in making informed decisions.
  • Clients do not have to come up with all of the solutions because the lawyers are there to suggest options, based on experience
  • Lawyers can give legal advice
  • Clients don’t risk the agreement falling apart at the end when the lawyers review it, because the lawyers are present when the agreement is reached.

18. What cases are not suitable for Collaborative Practice?

  • Extremely emotional cases (e.g. parties who cannot stand to be in the same room with each other)
  • Parties who are unwilling to consider the soon-to-be ex-spouse’s viewpoint
  • Parties who are unwilling to reveal all assets and debts

19. Does Collaborative Practice work for resolving other types of disputes than divorce or other family matters?

    Yes. Although our experience in Collaborative Practice in New Hampshire has so far been primarily family-related, there are lawyers and other professionals in this state trained in Collaborative Practice who can assist in resolving disputes in other areas. Here are a few examples of areas in which the Collaborative approach can help resolve disputes respectfully and economically:
  • Landlord tenant disputes
  • Probate of estates
  • Business dissolution
  • Employer/Employee disputes
  • Claims of discrimination