"Collaborative Law Process offers a team-based non-adversarial approach for a dissolution or legal separation case. Together, the parties and their team of professionals work together to focus on a new beginning for the future while preserving dignity and respect for the parties and any children." Bryan Ginter, Esq.
Collaborative Law Process is a relatively new non-adversarial mode of resolving a divorce matter that is growing in popularity not only in California, but also around the country. In litigation, the hired Family Law attorney wears many hats...attorney, communication specialist, counselor, financialist, etc. And, all these hats come at the attorney's hourly rate! Collaborative Practice takes these hats and puts them on the heads of specialists, instead of all them being worn by the attorney and, typically, the specialists charge less per hour than the attoney. Collaborative Law Process professionals include:
Attorneys: Unlike litigation and mediation, each party must have his/her own attorney. The Family Law attorney informs the client of the law to ensure that the client is making informed decisions.
Communication Specialists: Each party typically has his/her own Communication Specialist, who are also sometimes referred to as "divorce coaches." Although the Communication Specialist is a mental health professional, the purpose of this key individual is not to provide counseling or "therapy" used in the strict sense; rather, the purpose is to ensure that the parties are speaking productively to one another, which ultimately facilitates settlement and negotiations.
Child Specialist: If there are any minor children involved, a neutral Child Specialist is often included in the process. The purpose of the Child Specialist is to act as a voice of the child(ren), relaying this information to the group so that the child(ren)'s feelings and desired can be considered as the parties are reaching agreements.
Financial Specialist: Oftentimes one party does not understand finances as well as the other, which could be due to one party primarily managing finances during the marriage. Or, there could be complex financial issues, such as a large amount of assets or multiple sources of income and expenses. In these cases, a neutral Financial Specialist can make order out of the financial chaos and relay financial information to the parties and the rest of the team in layman's terms.
Even though there is an attorney and a Communication Specialist for each party, there is still a concept of a "team" effort. Additionally, to help keep the parties out of court and focused on resolution via settlement, the parties and their attorneys sign an agreement that is filed with the court that indicates that the parties will not seek redress in court and will not utilize other litigative tools, such as "discovery." In fact, the agreement indicates that, should the process break down for any reason, all of the professionals involved in the process, including the attorneys, must be fired.
If you are interested in Collaborative Law Process as a mode of resolving your divorce, you will need to ask your prospective attorney whether he or she belongs to any particular Collaborative Law Process group. If so, it would behoove you to ask about some of the protocols the group may have adopted regarding the "team" players and the process. For example, some groups require that the parties visit with a Communication Specialist at least once. Also, some groups have a restriction where an attorney member may not enter into a Collaborative Law Process case with another attorney that is not also a member of the same group. These rules can vary from group to group.
Ginter Family Law 2701 Del Paso Road Suite 130-275 Sacramento, CA 95835 (916) 419-1161