Collaborative Law

What is Collaborative Law?

Rather than rush off to the courthouse to file one’s complaints against the other, the practice of Collaborative Law emphasizes negotiation and settlement of family issues outside the public sphere of the courtroom.

This is a more open and civil approach than courtroom proceedings, and the Collaborative Law process allows the clients and their attorneys to take control of their family issues and decide for themselves how their family should move forward upon separation and divorce. This is not a process for all cases or couples, including situations where drug and alcohol abuse and domestic violence exist.

How does the Collaborative Law process work?

  • Signed Collaborative Law Agreement: The process begins by each party and their attorneys signing an agreement stating that they will resolve their marital issues through the Collaborative Law model. Once an agreement has been reached, the first “four-way” meeting is scheduled.
  • Four-Way Meetings: A cornerstone of the collaborative law model, a four-way meeting consists of each spouse and their attorney gathering together to discuss the subject of that day’s agenda. Depending on the complexity and the number of issues to be addressed, there can be anywhere between two to seven or more four-way meetings. At each meeting, it is the goal of everyone to resolve, or at least make some progress towards resolving the issues existing between the spouses. By being honest, forthright with information, and respectful, a transparent and efficient process is created, focusing on doing what is best for each spouse and the family as a whole as they transition into their new lives.
  • Collaborative Law Settlement Agreement: Once a mutual agreement is reached between the parties on all issues, their agreement is memorialized in a signed writing by the parties and their attorneys. This document will act as the guidelines to be followed by all parties moving forward and will be presented to a judge for his or her signature.
  • Withdrawal in the Event of Litigation: Another cornerstone of Collaborative Law, and part of what makes it different than mediation or arbitration, is the requirement that both attorneys must withdraw from the case in the event the issues require litigation. This would of course mean that each spouse would have to hire new attorneys to take their matter(s) to court. The purpose of this requirement is so that all parties to the Collaborative Law process begin with a genuine, good-faith effort to settle all issues out of court.

What are the advantages of Collaborative Law?

There are several advantages to resolving a divorce through a Collaborative model and they include:

  • Efficiency: By avoiding the cat-and-mouse approach used by some attorneys to gain some perceived strategic advantage over the opposing party, from the very beginning, the Collaborative Law process focuses on resolving issues in a forthright and fair manner. That is, instead of allowing emotions and bitter feelings to dictate decisions because one spouse feels like it will punish the other, the Collaborative Law process places the onus on addressing each issue and settling it in a way that is fair to all concerned.
  • Control: Participants have the ability to tailor solutions to the specific and unique needs of their family rather than leaving such decisions in the hands of a judge applying black letter law;
  • Flexibility of Scheduling (and again, control): Participants schedule their four-way meetings at times and places that are convenient for everyone, as opposed to being confined to the times and dates that a court requires you to attend a hearing or trial;
  • Financial: Resolving marital issues through the Collaborative Law Model tends to be less expensive, as there can be fewer filing fees due to limited court involvement. Additionally, because the process is more efficient as noted above, less time is needed to resolve the case, meaning fewer hours billed by your attorney;
  • A Measured Perspective: Handling marital issues through the Collaborative process encourages spouses to take a step back from their overwhelming emotions and consider the big picture: how can my spouse and I work together so that we can both help our family move forward with our lives?

Whether you live in Union or Mecklenburg County, Smith Horton Law has an office near you. We represent clients from Charlotte, Monroe, Indian Trail, Weddington, Marvin, Waxhaw, Stallings, Marshville and Huntersville. Contact Us Today!



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