Collaborative Law: An Alternative Method to Resolve Divorce, Custody and Support

March 11, 2010

When I became an attorney, I never imagined that I would actually look for ways to help clients stay out of the courtroom. After all, one of the reasons the legal profession interested me was that I could argue and advocate for clients in court (an ’80s child, I admittedly watched too much L.A. Law).

At any rate, since I entered private practice nearly 9 years ago, I have met with hundreds of people about their options for divorcing. It’s not uncommon for someone to come in to my office for an initial consultation and tell me that they would like to divorce and resolve related issues like custody, child support and spousal support without going to court. Even with the best legal representation, litigation can be an uncertain and frightening experience. It’s simply not the right choice for everyone or every family. I wanted to be able to provide an option to those clients who are weary of litigation and believe they can work out a solution without the need for court intervention. For that reason, I recently became trained to practice the collaborative method, or what’s familiarly called "Collaborative Law".

The hallmark of a collaborative case is a Participation Agreement, which is a written agreement where both parties commit to resolve the matter outside of court. Each client has his or her own attorney to help them through the process, providing advice about options and creative solutions for moving forward. If necessary, a financial expert and family specialist (often a psychologist) will help the family work through asset valuation or custody issues. The goal of the collaborative model is to reduce the conflict within a family so that at the conclusion of the divorce, the parties can move on with their lives without some of the emotional and financial harm that can sometimes occur during the traditional litigation model.

To date, Collaborative Law is still a relatively new option for Lancaster County residents to pursue. It is my hope that by educating clients and other professionals including, attorneys, financial experts and family therapists, Collaborative Law will offer an additional option clients can utilize to reach constructive agreements about the dissolution of their marriage.

In the next few weeks I will be posting additional articles covering Collaborative Law in more detail.