Collaborative Practice is a voluntary dispute resolution process that is a structured, targeted, and efficient way of addressing family law disputes without going to court. In a Collaborative case, the parties, their attorneys, and neutral professionals work cooperatively and respectfully to reach a meaningful and lasting agreement. The process is designed to allow both parties to feel supported and guided as they explore the best solutions for their family in a safe space.
Overall, the Collaborative Process allows parties to:
Negotiate a mutually acceptable resolution without having courts decide issues;
Maintain open communication and information sharing; and
Create shared solutions acknowledging the highest priorities of all.
Attorneys Ruth Goldner and David J. Deeg are both Collaboratively-trained and maintain memberships in the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals and the Collaborative Practice Institute of Michigan.
How does Collaborative Practice work?
Each party hires a Collaboratively-trained attorney to serve as an advocate. The parties then jointly select the appropriate team of Collaboratively-trained professionals, which may include a neutral mental health professional to serve as coach, a neutral child specialist to assist with co-parenting or other issues, and a neutral financial advisor to help analyze finances and identify possible budgets for the parties. The team will engage in a series of meetings designed to help identify issues, discuss fears, values, and goals, and brainstorm possible solutions and identify a plan going forward.
Importantly, should the parties decide not to continue in the Collaborative Process, opting instead to utilize traditional litigation, the attorneys may not represent the parties in that action, and the neutral professionals may not work with the parties individually. This allows for open communication during the Collaborative Process without fear that information shared will be used assertively in a contested court proceeding. Collaborative Practice allows the parties to speak freely and negotiate mutually-acceptable, legally-enforceable agreements in good faith.
The four key elements of the Collaborative Process are:
1. The voluntary, free and open exchange of information.
2. The pledge not to litigate (go to court for decision-making) and the mandatory withdrawal of the attorneys and other team professionals if either party litigates.
3. The professionals’ commitment to use their best skills to assist you in reaching agreement without having to resort to judicial decision-making.
4. A balanced commitment to respect both parties' shared goals.
When can I use the Collaborative Process?
Collaborative Practice may be used in Family Law cases, such as divorce (with or without minor children), child custody, and post-judgment issues (disagreements involving property or children after a case has concluded in court).
Is Collaborative Practice right for me?
Collaborative Practice may be appropriate for you if any of the following statements are true:
I want us to communicate with a tone of respect.
I want to prioritize the needs of our children.
My needs and those of my spouse/partner require equal consideration, and I will listen objectively.
I believe that working creatively and cooperatively resolves issues.
It is important to reach beyond today's frustration and pain to plan for the future.
I can behave ethically toward my spouse/partner.
I choose to maintain control of the divorce/separation process with my spouse/partner, and not leave the decision up to the Judge.
I believe that we can make the best decisions when we are in a safe space that allows us to communicate openly and address our fears.
Contact our attorneys to discuss your situation and to help you decide whether Collaborative Practice is a good option for you and your family.
For more information about Collaborative Practice, as well as a directory of Collaboratively-trained professionals located in Michigan, please visit www.collaborativepracticemi.org.