“To collaborate is defined as to work jointly on an activity, especially to produce or create something, and ‛to work with the enemy.'” — Wikipedia and Webster’s New World Dictionary

“Collaborative Law is a voluntary, non-adversarial, problem-solving approach to solving legal disputes.” — J. Kim Wright, author of Lawyers as Peacemakers

Many divorce lawyers have been using the collaborative practice format for over 20 years. Now collaborative law is practiced in almost every state in the United States, as well as in many other countries.

When couples agree to use collaborative practice professionals, they agree to: 1) participate in settlement negotiations; 2) maintain the negotiations as confidential (not admissible in court); and 3) hire new attorneys if they are unable to reach agreement and decide to litigate.

Collaborative lawyers who practice the collaborative process do not go to court. Collaborative professionals also promise not to use standard litigation tools (such as interrogatories or depositions), or adopt adversarial styles of communication during the negotiations. The entire collaborative process is arranged to allow clients to choose outcomes, to recognize that the legal answers may not be the only answers, and to encourage the use of community resources and supports in creating solutions based on interests not necessarily rights.

So what does this mean if you are looking for help in getting divorced? It is critical to screen your choice of attorney. Attorneys are people and each one has their own style and way of communicating. Here are some points to consider when you meet with and consider hiring any attorney:

  • Do they listen to you? Do you feel heard?
  • Do their answers to your questions seem realistic and honest?
  • Does their manner make you feel less shame and embarrassment?
  • Do you find yourself looking forward to speaking with them again?
  • Do they understand the entire scope of the issues that concern you?
  • Do they recommend other needed and appropriate resources to assist you?

If you feel like you are understood and the attorney is asking to work with you in an effort to reach a solution rather than going to court, you probably have found a collaborative attorney. It also never hurts to ask. Collaborative practice professionals have developed a large network and can be found in many places, including www.collaborativepractice.com.