What is Collaborative Law?
Collaborative law offers an alternative to a litigated divorce in Massachusetts. In the collaborative practice model, you and your lawyer work together with your spouse and your spouse’s lawyer to reach your individual and mutual goals. Under the collaborative law form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), you and your spouse each have a separate lawyer to represent you and guide you through the process. As needed, you may also hire joint experts to help you resolve issues such as property division and child custody / parenting plans.
How does Collaborative Law Work?
First, both spouses meet with their respective Collaborative attorneys to discuss individual needs and concerns. Then, the couple and their attorneys meet in four-way sessions to reach a settlement without involving the court. Every issue – including property division, parenting allocation, and support – is put “on the table” in these sessions. At times other professionals including Mental Health Professionals and Financial Experts may become part of the “team” to assist couples in reaching successful resolutions. Divorcing parties benefit from the skills, advice, and support of attorneys and other professionals while striving to work things out in a positive, future-focused manner.
At the beginning of the process husband, wife, and both attorneys sign a Participation Agreement. The agreement requires both parties to:
- Exchange complete financial information so that each spouse can make well-informed decisions
- Maintain absolute confidentiality during the process, so that each spouse can feel free to express his or her needs and concerns
- Reach written agreement on all issues and concerns outside of contested court proceedings
- Authorize the attorneys to use the written agreement to obtain a final court decree.
The parties may also agree to involve other professionals to assist in the process. These professionals are also bound by the terms of the Collaborative Agreement.
When a settlement is reached, attorneys file the appropriate paperwork required by the court.