One of the exciting new developments in family law is collaborative law, divorce without court. The cornerstone of the approach is the stipulation the parties and attorneys sign, eliminating court as an option. The parties sign a Collaborative Participation Agreement which commits the parties to: 1) Participate in good faith to reach a negotiated settlement that addresses both party’s interests and concerns; 2) Each party makes full disclosure to his or her attorney and the other party of all pacts pertinent to their case; 3) The parties communicate respectfully and constructively with each other to settle their case; and 4) Neither parties nor their attorneys will use the court to resolve disputes during the collaborative law process, and if a party decides to withdraws from the process, the attorneys will withdraw and help their respective clients make an economical and orderly transfer to new attorneys.
With the removal of the threat of “going to court,” parties and attorneys hold a series of four-way meetings to work out the dissolution. Of course, parties can’t sign away their right to go to court, but it is understood that if the parties elect to go to court, their attorneys withdraw and are prohibited from representing them.
It is the emotional support aspect of the divorce that seems to drain the energy of family law attorneys. It is the attorney who seems to bear the brunt of the angry client. The attorney hears it all: The court, the judicial system, the unfavorable evaluation, the high costs, and the unfaithful parent. Many attorneys are attracted to collaborative law and excited about the prospects of practices that don’t require trials, hearings and depositions.