Collaborative Family Law: Overview

What is Collaborative Law?

Collaborative law is a new trend in alternative dispute resolution. It involves a cooperative and structured out of court approach that allows the parties to the legal dispute work together along with their attorneys and finds an amicable solution. By using collaborative law in a divorce setting, the spouses can finalize their divorce and settled all related issues without having to go to the court.

Background and Development

The process of collaborative law was started in the early nineties by some family law attorneys in Minnesota. They wanted a more straightforward, civil and fairer method of resolving divorce issues. Today there are many such collaborative law groups across the nation. There is also an association of collaborative law groups called the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals ( Their main objective is to use collaborative law principles to resolve divorce cases and associated issues. Recently there has been an increase in the use of collaborative law to settled employment and business disputes.


The spouses who wish to use collaborative law process to settle their divorce issues must be committed to resolving the issues in reasonable and constructive manner. Commitment of the parties is vital for success. The spouses must enter into a written agreement to use collaborative law process to settle the issues in good faith. They must disclose all information and relevant documents. The spouses’ attorneys too are part of the process. If one or both spouses decide to terminate the process half way, then the spouses must hire new attorneys to represent them. The original attorneys will withdraw from the proceedings if either spouse terminates the process.

The spouses along with their attorneys meet in a neutral setting such as a conference room and negotiate on the various issues. All persons present at the negotiations – the spouses and their respective attorneys can freely participate in the negotiation. The objective of the negotiation is an agreeable resolution to the issues in dispute. Unlike mediation, arbitration and other alternative dispute resolutions, a third party is not present to decide on the issues. There are just four parties – the two spouses and their respective attorneys. The attorneys act as the representative of their clients and give suggestion to encourage an amicable solution.

If the parties find it difficult to reach a settlement, they can hire the services of counselors or experts to assist them with complex matter such as accounting, asset valuation, etc. Most of the collaborative law negotiations are successful in achieving an amicable solution. Once the spouses reach a settlement, the terms of the settlement are incorporated into a written agreement which is filed in the court. The court will pass the divorce decree according to the terms of the agreement.


Besides being a cooperative and constructive process, there are other advantages of using collaborative law process. The process is faster and cheaper compared to traditional divorce proceedings. The exact time frame and expenses will depend on the individual circumstances of the spouses. However it can be an expensive proposition if the parties are unable to reach a settlement or call off the process half way and decide to pursue the matter in court.

Collaborative law process not only saves time and money. It is also less stressful for everyone involved.

Finding a Collaborative Family Law Attorney

If you are in the midst of a divorce or planning to file for one, consider collaborative law process. It can offer you a positive resolution. Contact a family attorney with collaborative law experience.

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