Collaborative law is a process that was created by lawyers as a civil and confidential alternative for resolving family law and divorce issues without ever "going to court," thereby avoiding the stress and family damage often associated with the adversarial conflict that is part of the court process. Collaborative Law provides both parties the comfort and protection of a confidential out-of-court process with full legal support from their own attorney. The attorneys for each party work as a team to help both parties identify and incorporate in the final settlement each person's own goals and interests, both during and after the divorce or legal separation. Once that is accomplished, the focus then shifts to finding the best possible solution that addresses the goals and interests of both parties, with the priorities being as desired by the parties and not necessarily on what a court might decide.
By its very structure, the adversarial judicial system pits divorcing parties against each other as contestants trying to "win" by defeating the other party. Often, spouses and former spouses accuse each other of impropriety, infidelity and abuse. Moreover, children suffer as parents argue over issues of custody, control and parental alienation. In the end when the smoke finally clears, lives, hopes and dreams are often left in shambles and, much like nuclear war, there is no winner, only scorched earth. In our "no fault" divorce system, it ignores the emotional nature of the proceedings and can leave parties feeling helpless and without a voice. This is compounded by the time constraints faced by Court Commissioners and Judges with their ever expanding case loads. Imagine trying to fit all necessary information about your ten year marriage into a five hour trial. Then, you must rely on a Judge who is a total stranger to your family to make some of the most important decisions in your life. In most cases, the result is like trying to pound a round peg into a square hole. Generally, Courts lack time to provide creativity and often must use a cookie cutter approach to such issues as parenting schedules and property divisions. Over and over again we see Court orders that include visitation schedules with alternating weekends and alternating holidays. Certainly, there must be a better way to address those issues.
In a nutshell, the Collaborative law process is divorce without war. In that process, emotional issues are recognized as an important part of the divorce and healing process. Those issues, along with the legal issues, are addressed from a problem solving perspective. This problem solving perspective allows for greater creativity where each party helps to craft an innovative agreement that works for them. The process is also designed to allow a free exchange of necessary information and the use of outside experts regarding difficult decisions.