Part 1: What is Collaborative Divorce?
Collaborative Divorce has spread rapidly throughout the world during the past two decades and has helped thousands of families achieve better outcomes. This series of blogs will focus on how people facing divorce can achieve better outcomes through a Collaborative Divorce.
This first blog starts by providing this simple definition of Collaborative Divorce:
A divorce in which the husband and the wife each retain a lawyer for settlement purposes only.
That’s it. While Collaborative Divorce has many other elements, this one feature defines the process. As simple as this seems on the surface, it is easy to get confused about what Collaborative Divorce means for two reasons:
First, because the word “collaborative” is an adjective, (essentially meaning “working together”), that has been around for centuries, the word collaborative, (without a capital c), could be used to describe many divorces where people work together. However, in legal terminology, the phrase Collaborative Divorce (capital C), has come to define a specific divorce process
in which the attorneys are retained for settlement purposes only. In a Collaborative Divorce, unlike a traditional negotiation, the lawyers must withdraw if the divorce cannot be resolved out of court.
Second, while using lawyers for settlement purposes only is the one defining
feature, Collaborative Divorce often has many other elements that add greatly to the success of Collaborative cases. For example, Collaborative Divorce is often a team process in which the clients work with financial neutrals and mental health professionals in addition to attorneys. In addition, Collaborative Divorces generally use a very different method of negotiation called “interest-based negotiations.” These features allow people to get better outcomes in their divorce but are not part of the definition of Collaborative Divorce. Some Collaborative Divorces do not include all of these features.
The basic defining characteristic of Collaborative Divorce, (the fact that the lawyers must withdraw if the matter goes to court), was introduced by Stu Webb, a Minnesota attorney in 1990. Stu’s simple but profound idea was that committing to settlement only would open the door to a new way of doing things that would help families get better outcomes. Indeed that is exactly what has happened. Great innovations like working with full interdisciplinary teams and using interest based bargaining are two of the common feature of Collaborative Divorce that have evolved as part of the Collaborative Divorce process as a result of this great commitment.
Understanding that Collaborative lawyers are hired for settlement purpose only is the first step in truly understanding Collaborative Divorce. The next step is to understand why that commitment is so essential to the success of Collaborative Divorce. Understanding the strength and value of the Collaborative Commitment is covered in the next blog in this series. For immediate information on these and other questions about Collaborative Divorce, go to www.collaborativelaw.org
Read Part 2 of this series
More Collaborative Law Posts