What Is Collaborative Practice?

Collaborative practice is a method of resolving family law matters using a structured negotiation setting, without court proceedings. In collaborative practice, which is also known as collaborative divorce and collaborative law, each party is represented by her or his own counsel, known as “collaborative counsel”. Mostly, although not always, mental health professionals, called divorce coaches, and financial specialists are added to the collaborative team. The collaborative team then works together with the parties to identify goals and interests, assemble information, develop options for settlement, and formulate solutions to the problems presented.

Features of Collaborative Practice

The features of collaborative practice are similar to the features of mediation. Like mediation, collaborative practice is:

  • Voluntary
  • Confidential
  • Non-adversarial
  • Open and transparent
  • Interest and goal-based

The Collaborative Roadmap

The collaborative roadmap is similar to the mediation roadmap. First, the collaborative team is formed. Then the team works with the parties to develop each party’s goals for the divorce and to identify the concrete issues requiring resolution. Once the process is underway, the parties and the team assemble the information and documentation needed to address the issues. When the necessary information and documents are assembled, the parties and the team develop options for resolving the issues. (This is the “brainstorming” process.) The parties, with the team’s assistance, then negotiate in good faith to reach an overall resolution. The collaborative counsel then prepares a formal, written settlement agreement.

Which Lawyers Are Qualified?

In order to serve capably as collaborative counsel, an attorney must satisfy two standards: She or he must have taken training and instruction in the collaborative field, and she or he must be an active and participating member of an organized collaborative group. Collaborative practice is organized into practice groups by county or region. Information about collaborative practice groups in the Bay Area can be found in the bullet list below:

What Do Divorce Coaches Do?

Divorce coaches play a critical role in collaborative practice. Divorce coaches are licensed mental health professionals who are trained in collaborative practice. Generally, each party has her or his own coach, although in some cases a single coach works with both parties. Coaches are added to the collaborative team at the outset of the process. The divorce coach meets with her or his client to help the client through the collaborative process. The coach, with the client’s permission, may also confer directly with the client’s collaborative counsel or with the entire collaborative team. Coaches may meet with their client only once or twice or on a regular basis. Sometimes coaches attend collaborative meetings along with parties and attorneys. The coach can assist her or his client in dealing with the emotional issues that inevitably arise during the divorce process. Coaches also can suggest methods for a client to participate affirmatively in meetings and can help a client recognize and assert her or his self-interests. Coaches can help the team identify and address communications issues and similar problems. Coaches do not provide psychotherapy. Their task is to facilitate the collaborative process.