You may or may not have heard the term "collaborative law" in your daily comings and goings. Probably not, if you have a life. In all seriousness, there is much confusion about what it means. Like I always say, there are many imitators but few real collaborators. Actually I don't always say that, but it sounds good. Let's start with the basics.
Collaborative law is mainly used in the family law arena, such as in the handling of divorces and custody (parenting plans). The parties involved are two attorneys and two clients (spouses or co-parents). Most discussions are done in the context of a four (4) way meeting, i.e. the two attorneys and two clients. All four (4) parties must sign the Collaborative Participation Agreement, which says we agree to stay out of court. What that means is there is no litigation or threat of litigation; if there is, the attorneys are disqualified and the clients must find new litigation attorneys. An estimated 95% of cases settle before trial, why wouldn't you want to do it collaboratively? The setting is similar to an informal mediation, yet unlike a mediation, you have your advocate (attorney) present. The attorneys and clients can freely speak to everyone in the room. Nobody gets in trouble for doing that. And guess what? It's much less expensive than a court litigated divorce.
Those are the basics. Sometimes clients need some additional help as their family dissolves and they go from spouse to single parent. There is a great need for continued peaceful co-parenting during and after the final divorce (if you were married). You're going to have to deal with your ex for the next 10-18 years and beyond, if you have children together. A neutral coach or co-parenting specialist can help with parenting plans or can help you deal with the major changes in your life. Selling your house? You and your ex can agree on a joint realtor or mortgage broker. Many spouses also need help with figuring out how to divide their assets and debts, and the best person for that job is a joint financial specialist, ideally a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, one who has been trained in the collaborative process. The CDFA can also do support projections which are enormously helpful in determining spousal and child support, and how the parties will look financially in 10, 20, or 30 years.
If you are thinking about divorce, or your spouse has already started the process, it's not too late to try collaborative. The attorneys who are collaboratively trained will belong to a local practice group of attorneys, coaches and financial analysts, and/or they will have their credentials listed on their website. When you make an appointment with one of these attorneys, they should offer collaborative divorce as one of the options. It may or may not be appropriate in your situation, but at least you know it's out there as an option.