Answering Your Collaborative Law Questions
Q: Are the professionals on this site a member of one company?
A: No, we are independent professionals united by a common professional commitment to offer Collaborative Law resources. We each operate within our own individual practices or firms.
Q: Is Collaborative Law only for divorce?
A: Collaborative Law describes a way of approaching a case, and it can be used for many kinds of cases. In addition to divorce and legal separation, Collaborative Law has been used in family law cases for prenuptial agreements and postnuptial agreements, as well as parenting plan and child support modifications.
Q: What documents are generated in the collaborative law process, and how are they used?
A: AT the beginning of the collaborative process both parties and their attorneys sign a binding agreement that addresses this question. As the collaborative process goes along the Team may decide that certain information is needed for the parties to make informed decisions. Examples of documents generated in the Collaborative process are a business valuation, an appraisal of real estate, a valuation of a pension or other retirement account, or a document generated by a financial “neutral” chosen by the Team to show the economic impact of certain settlement scenarios.
The general rule is that any document that is generated as part of the Collaborative process is not to be used outside of that process. This rule does not apply to documents such as tax returns, pay stubs, W-2’s pension statements, or other information that is not generated at the direction of the Collaborative Team.
An exception to the rule is that the parties may agree, in the event the Collaborative process terminates, that certain documents that were generated by the Team may be used in later court proceedings. The benefit of such agreements is that the parties are saved further time and expense for having to regenerate the work that was done.
Q: What if my spouse/partner is only pretending to be Collaborative, and is really operating in bad faith?
A: The principles of Collaborative Law are to act with honesty, transparency and candor and to focus on the future well-being of all. These principles of part of the Participation Agreement that the clients and Collaborative professionals sign as part of this process. If your spouse is not able to abide by the principles of this agreement, then it may be appropriate to choose another process or, if you have already started a Collaborative case, to discuss terminating the process with your lawyer.
Q: Why is a child specialist used?
A: A child specialist meets primarily with the children and relays their needs to the rest of the collaborative law team to make sure their best interests are considered in the parenting plan. An initial meeting with the parents and parent questionnaires are also useful in this process.
Q: What is the difference between a child specialist, coach and mediator?
A: A child specialist is focused on making sure that the best interests of the children are considered in the parenting plan. A coach helps the parents navigate the process. The parents can utilize the same coach or each can have different coaches. A mediator can assist the team in ther initial meeting(s) and moving forward and helping with roadblocks.
Q: What is a QDRO and why is it needed?
A: A QDRO (or Qualified Domestic Relations Order) is the legal document that divides up a qualified pension or retirement account (including 401k’s) following a divorce. The Judgment of Divorce is not sufficient to divide up qualified plans, a QDRO is needed. There are many nuances that go into QDRO’s as they are dependent upon the specific situation of the pension/retirement account as well as different laws that protect most military and public sector plans. In order to protect your assets, be sure to obtain qualified advice in this area from a specialist.
Q: How does Mediation compare to Collaborative Law?
A: Mediating early in a case (called “Early Stage Mediation”) and Collaborative Law are both methods that have the objective of resolving issues cooperatively. In Collaborative Law the attorneys enter into an agreement to cooperate and to not litigate even if the couple is at an impasse; however, the attorneys have an ethical duty to protect their own client’s interests. In Collaborative Law a team approach is usually used; the team provides a container and controls the process for the clients. In Early Stage Mediation the mediator works with the clients directly to determine the process and a team approach may or may not be used depending on the unique needs and interests of the clients. In Early Stage Mediation the attorneys are usually not present at most sessions; however, depending on the needs of the clients attorneys may be present at some or all sessions. Both methods are used to resolve issues cooperatively, to empower the clients and to consider client needs and interests. Early Stage Mediation can be more efficient and less costly for clients than Collaborative Law. On the other hand, Collaborative Law may be preferable if the clients need real-time legal advice and more team support.