Mar 2011 17

Attorney Kelley Finan, of the law office of Marlo Van Oorschot, explains.

Basically, the main commitment you make when you commit to do your divorce in a collaborative way is that you won’t go to court. You’ll work on settlement until it happens. Both the husband and the wife have to agree that they’ll stay out of court.

Each person has their own attorney, as well as a therapist-coach, and sometimes a neutral financial expert. It just depends on what you think your case needs, and how much support and input you need.

Collaborative Divorce is a great choice for people who need more structure than mediation offers, and who want the guidance of individual lawyers and coaches to get through the process.

It’s more expensive than mediation, but it’s less expensive than going to court (sometimes).

Here’s an idea of where collaborative divorce fits on the divorce continuum:

The decision to divorce is followed by a number of choices for how a case might be filed and later resolved. Some of the steps are a loop, and others may be mixed and matched, but the general continuum, from least confrontational to most confrontational, is:

• Decision to Divorce

• No response: spouse ignores petition, or is missing = proceed by Default

• Kitchen Table discussion on how to resolve case, do-it-yourself papers

• See a lawyer, get an idea of rights, then resolve around the Kitchen Table and DIY

• Use a paralegal or one lawyer to draft the papers, no individual representation

• Individual representation with lawyer for one party only who helps parties settle informally, without court

• Mediation

• Mediation with lawyers involved, to a more or lesser degree *

• Collaborative law model

• Start litigation

• Litigation at first but ultimately settle

• Litigation at first, but use Private Judge or Arbitrator for final decision

• Litigation and Trial

* Referring to collaborative lawyers for independent consultations and representation for individual clients in mediated cases may be a bridge between mediation and collaborative law. There’s also less of a chance that a collaborative lawyer will derail the mediation process. The collaborative lawyer acting as independent counsel in a mediation might also have a retainer agreement and independent counsel agreement that follows the collaborative law model in that the mediation won’t be derailed in favor of litigation, and that the client will be expected to remain in mediation until settlement is reached.

Diana Mercer is the co-author of Making Divorce Work: 8 Essential Keys to Resolving Conflict and Rebuilding Your Life (Perigee 2010). Join the conversation and community on our video blog and check out Diana’s divorce blog on the Huffington Post

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