Collaborative Law & Collaborative Practice, What’s the Difference?

What is Collaborative Law?

Collaborative Law is a way for people who have a legal problem to work out a solution, with the help of lawyers, outside of the court system. When these people find lawyers who are willing to participate in settlement negotiations with the express, written condition that if they don’t settle, the lawyers will withdraw, they have a Collaborative case. This model of dispute resolution was first used to help divorcing people. Lawyers who want to focus on solving the problems associated with a break-up create a way for spouses to let go of the blame game and just work through the issues around a table rather than in a courtroom. People conduct themselves with integrity and dignity. When a divorcing couple has children, a collaborative process fosters communication between spouses that lays the foundation for better co-parenting in the future.

What is Collaborative Practice?

A more highly evolved form of Collaborative Law, Collaborative Practice adds other non-legal professionals to the problem-solving process to create more comprehensive solutions. To address the financial aspects of a case, the team includes a neutral financial specialist. If the couple has children, the team includes a neutral child specialist. Mental health professionals serving as coaches assist the couple and the team to manage the emotional complexities of a case.

Which Process is Better?

For those who choose a Collaborative Process, the choice between Collaborative Law or Collaborative Practice will, in large part, relate to the complexities of their specific case and how far apart they are on the issues. In addition, collaborative lawyers vary in their preferences. Some lawyers use neutral professionals; some don’t. Some couples refuse to include coaches on the team despite the lawyers’ recommendation; some take advantage of this additional help. Usually, couples with children see the value a child specialist can provide. Bottom line: If you decide to divorce, do your research so you are fully informed and choose a lawyer whose values are aligned with yours. Then, take one day at a time to reach your most important goals.

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