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Collaborative Practice: An alternative approach to resolving disputes in the family law arena.

Going through a divorce or other contested family law matter does not automatically mean you must go to court in order to have your issue resolved. As an alternative to traditional litigation, the collaborative law process provides you and your spouse, partner, or co-parent with the support and guidance of attorney representation without the stress, expense, and unknowns of going to court. The parties resolve their disputes in a series of face-to-face meetings with their attorneys and team members while respecting both parties’ shared goals. The collaborative law process is better equipped than traditional litigation to leave the parties’ relationships with each other and their children in tact as the family structure changes.

What is Collaborative Practice?

Collaborative Practice, also called Collaborative Divorce, or the Collaborative Law Model, is an alternative to traditional litigation that was developed in the 1980s.

The key differences between traditional litigation and Collaborative Practice are:

  • The parties sign a written pledge that they will not file suit against one another in court and that both attorneys will withdraw from the case if either party litigates.
  • The parties agree to a free and open exchange of information without the necessity of formal requests for production and other discovery tools.
  • The professionals involved commit to using their best skills to assist the parties in reaching agreement without having to resort to judicial decision-making.
  • The parties commit to respecting both parties’ shared goals throughout the process.

Each party must be represented by an attorney trained in the Collaborative Process. However, in addition to attorneys, other professionals can be added to the team when their area of expertise is needed. Team members can include financial experts, child specialists, vocational rehabilitation coaches, mediators, or mental health professionals depending on the needs of your case. The collaborative divorce team helps both clients to identify the issues in their case and to develop creative solutions to reach agreement.

What are the benefits of Collaborative Practice?

Collaborative Practice offers many advantages including:

  • Control. Collaborative clients have more control over the process and substance of their dispute resolution process than parties using the traditional litigation model. Decision-making and information sharing occurs throughout the process as needed, rather than at an arbitrary time dictated by rule or statute. The collaborative model also provides the opportunity for parties to settle more quickly and less expensively than the traditional litigation model.
  • Privacy. Trial transcripts and court pleadings are public records. Resolving your case outside of the courtroom allows you to maintain a degree of privacy that is generally not available in litigation.
  • Mutual respect. Both parties and professionals pledge to maintain an atmosphere of mutual respect to foster the sharing of ideas and mutual problem-solving.
  • No threat of court action. Inherent in traditional litigation is the constant threat of court involvement—the “accept my settlement offer or we will just let the judge decide” model. In Collaborative Practice, the court is not involved until a full agreement is reached, enabling clients to brainstorm ideas without the constant threat that the other side will haul them into court.
  • Support of counsel and other professionals. Clients have the legal guidance of their own attorney as well as the support of the other collaborative professionals to help guide them through the process and to ensure all issues are addressed and the client’s highest needs are met.

Is my case appropriate for collaborative practice?

The collaborative process can work for many types of family law cases, including divorce, establishment of custody, parenting time, and child support, custody modifications, and high asset divorces, just to name a few.

It is particularly helpful in cases where both parties want to put the needs of their children first, but need legal guidance or other support to reach a mutual understanding.

Clients must be willing to negotiate with one another face-to-face, with the aid of their attorneys. For this reason, the collaborative model may not be appropriate for cases involving domestic abuse.

What is the team approach?

The collaborative team is typically selected by the parties and their attorneys early in the collaborative case. For cases involving complex financial assets or debts, a financial expert can be brought on to help both parties transition into financial independence and address the future tax consequences of a divorce. Cases involving young children might benefit from a child specialist who will work with the parties to develop a parenting plan that is in the best interest of the children. For some cases, the team consists only of the parties and their attorneys.

The benefit of the team approach is that it allows the parties access to professionals who are experts in the fields that are relevant to their case.

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About Our Team Portland, Vancouver, & Salem Family Law Firm

At our family law firm, we understand the importance of taking an individualized approach to working with clients. Our goal is to give our clients stability and confidence during a difficult time of their lives. From start to finish, we can provide the personalized counsel you deserve.

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