What makes collaborative law unique is that from the first meeting the parties and their collaborative counsel sign an agreement not go to court. Once the option to litigate is removed, threats give way to cooperative and creative solutions. Additionally, collaborative law emphasizes an interdisciplinary approach; the use of other professionals as specialists is valued and encouraged.
During my first meeting with my clients I explore the overview of their situation. Are they good candidates for the collaborative model? What are their particular strengths or weaknesses? Will they be able to participate in a meaningful manner without getting stuck in excessive anger? What other professionals will be needed to properly handle their issues and concerns?
Once the decision to proceed collaboratively is made, I'll contact my client's spouse and invite him or her to participate. If that person has already retained counsel, I'll call to discuss working collaboratively. If that is agreed to, at our first four-way meeting we'll explain the rules of the process, sign an agreement not to go to court, and discuss if other professionals should be included in the process. If there are perhaps custody issues, a therapist may be recommended who will help the couple work through their emotional issues and assist in communication. Should someone lack financial knowledge, a financial advisor may be recommended. Finally, the agenda for the next meeting is agreed upon.
Between meetings, to move the process forward, the clients meet with their counselors and any other professionals who are to be included. When the issues are sufficiently agreed upon, an agreement is drafted and approved by the clients and their counsel.
Collaborative law offers the best setting for handling substantial custody issues, as the multidisciplinary team is able to respond quickly and in depth to resolve aggravated child-related conflicts.