Any attorney can say they are “collaborative”. Becoming your collaborative attorney however reflects a deeper commitment to you and a process that avoids litigation. A collaborative divorce requires that the couple and their respective attorneys sign a Participation Agreement. That document embodies a promise that the couple and their attorneys will use all of their time and efforts to finding resolution. The parties agree they will use their attorneys for that sole purpose and never in a courtroom. There is no opportunity for empty threats to let the judge decide. There is no wasted time preparing court applications that leave parties frustrated by decisions they don’t understand or become fertile ground for repeated applications. Instead, you will have the guidance and protection of an attorney who will help you make sound decisions in a safe and confidential setting.
Becoming a true collaborative divorce attorney requires effort and education. Look for the attorney who has gone beyond the basic 16-hour training. Attorneys deepen their skills by taking mediation classes, interest based negotiation courses, team-building workshops, attending forums in and out of the state to meet other practitioners and exchange ideas and discover methods that support clients in this type of process. Ask about the training the attorney has taken and how many cases they have worked on to conclusion. Ask if he/she belongs to a practice group. Practice groups require attendance at meetings, offer training, and offer a collaborative community of other skilled practitioners in finance and family therapy. An experienced collaborative attorney with the right team can help hold a case together when tempers fray.
Guided discussions build a collaborative divorce. Look for the person who listens and makes you feel comfortable. You need someone who will be empathic but also provide direction during this difficult time. Look for the person who concentrates in this type of family law. Someone with a litigation practice will need to be in Court and may not have blocks of time to devote to this area of practice.
Look for the person who cares about you especially when you have children. Leaving a marriage as enemies will deeply affect your children in terrible ways. It is not the story you want them to tell as they get older. It is a terrible risk for their well-being.