I was one seventy five fortunate attorneys trained in collaborative law, as part of an initiative by Chief Judge Kaye to create the first publicly funded collaborative law center.
The Texas Collaborative Law Blog offers a great overview of the collaborative law process of resolving divorces and other matrimonial actions without resort to litigation and court intervention:
Collaborative Law is a dispute resolution system that permits the parties to a divorce or family law issue to settle out of court in a respectful, private and mutually agreeable manner. The parties each have their own attorneys, but they agree at the outset to not go to court. Instead, they set goals, gather information, create solutions and reach agreements in a series of relatively short meetings which they schedule themselves. They control the timing, the subjects and, most importantly, the solutions. Courts are used to formalize the agreements once the parties have worked things out. One of the reasons why Collaborative Law works is that once the Collaborative participation agreement is signed by the parties and their attorneys, the attorneys are required to withdraw from representing their clients if the process fails to reach an agreement and someone wants to go to court. Those attorneys cannot represent those clients in a contested matter in court. That creates a huge incentive for both attorneys and clients to stay with the process and look for other solutions when the going gets a little tough. In a regular litigation case, the easy cop-out is for one or both parties to tell the other party that they will just let the judge decide if the other party won’t agree to an offer. That can’t be done without costing both parties a lot of money and without the attorneys losing business. Everyone loses by that alternative, so everyone generally keeps trying to find an acceptable solution.
The collaborative law process enables parties to emerge from a divorce with a “good settlement” without sustaining the scars inflicted in a contested litigated divorce. I look forward to offering this method of dispute resolution to my clients.