What is Collaborative Family Law?

Collaborative Practice is a way for people to respectfully resolve disputes. Unlike a traditional, litigated divorce, the Collaborative Process is private, cooperative, and efficient. Clients work to resolve their concerns outside of court with the help of a team of collaboratively trained attorneys, communication coaches and financial professionals who work together to find options that will serve the interests of all clients and their family. If there is to be a continuing relationship after the divorce, the goal is to create the possibility for a positive one.

What are the advantages of a Collaborative Law?

No single approach is right for every divorcing couple.  In contrast to the often destructive and adversarial components of conventional divorce litigation, the Collaborative Divorce Process is a healthier divorce model because it appropriately addresses the emotional, financial and legal dissolution issues and helps clients develop more effective ways of dealing and communicating with one another.

Designed as an alternative to conventional divorce, a Collaborative Divorce offers many distinct advantages: 

  • You keep control of the process yourselves, without going to court.
  • The proceedings are protected with full confidentiality.
  • Children’s needs may be given priority. 
  • You and your partner commit to reaching agreement through a problem-solving approach.
  • An atmosphere of respect preserves self-esteem. 
  • Open communication allows both of you to express your needs for moving forward and gives you new tools for effective problem-solving in the future. 
  • There is full disclosure of facts and information.
  • Face-to-face meetings in the presence of specially-trained Collaborative Attorneys, Divorce Coaches, and Neutral Financial Professionals make negotiations direct and efficient and allow for mutually created resolutions. 
  • The Collaborative Process helps both of you plan for your own future and that of your children and to begin new lives for all of you.
What do clients and professionals agree to in the Collaborative Process?

In the Collaborative Process, clients and professionals agree to:

  • work respectfully and in good faith to gather all information needed to reach resolution
  • produce all necessary information and documents voluntarily and in a timely fashion
  • focus on educating all participants about the underlying information, each client’s interests, and possible solutions.

Hiding documents and unnecessary delays are not permitted. Clients do not engage in expensive legal procedures to obtain information and do not use outside decision makers. Clients and their Collaborative Attorneys sign an agreement that expressly prohibits going to court during the time they are working towards settlement, and expressly prohibits the attorneys from representing the clients in any future adversarial proceedings between them.

The Collaborative Process takes place through a series of regular meetings where both clients and their professionals discuss the issues, make any necessary interim arrangements, plan for information gathering, brainstorm options, and then negotiate, draft, and implement their agreement. A safe environment is carefully created in these meetings to enable difficult conversations to occur with good results.

People choose Collaborative Practice because it allows them to be fully involved and to maintain control over their case, the building and participation of their team, and client-centered decision-making. They have the full support of their attorneys and communication coaches and financial professionals, which helps them to make well-informed, creative, and appropriate decisions. It allows clients to find solutions often not possible in litigation.

Do I have to have a lawyer for Collaborative Process?
In Arizona, the Collaborative Law Process requires each spouse to have his or her own attorney. The Collaborative Process can also incorporate non-attorney professionals, including financial neutrals and mental health professionals, often called coaches.   Your attorney will discuss your options and help you decide what professionals will best help you and your spouse attain the best outcome for your family.  Click here to learn more about Collaborative Lawyers.
Do I have to go to court if I choose the Collaborative Process?
Once Collaborative Process is selected as your method to resolve for use in your case, if your Collaborative Process case results in a full settlement, final documents are drawn up and submitted to court, and then you will not ever have to physically go into court.  
If my case does become a Collaborative Divorce case, am I required to retain a Financial Neutral or Communication Coach?
You are not required to pay for services you do not need.  When you make a decision to retain another collaborative professional, the decision will be made jointly with your spouse, your lawyer and your spouse’s lawyer.  If a budget or spousal support issue is raised, then a Financial Neutral can complete calculations very quickly.  If someone feels the dynamic is uneven, then to bring in a neutral Communication Coach professional can save a lot of time and resources.  Everyone will likely feel more confident about the outcome of the case if every element of your case is addressed. Click here to learn more about Collaborative Communication Coaches or Financial Neutrals.
Why Should We Consider a Collaborative Team?
Divorce creates emotional challenges, financial concerns and legal questions that need to be answered. Opportunities to address these different aspects of a divorce helps provide a healthy transition of the family, minimizing the negative impact frequently associated with divorce. Hiring a collaborative team gives you and your family the appropriate resources to address each of these important areas.  Each professional brings their expertise to the Collaborative Divorce Process and to the other professionals within the team, sharing information with full transparency to promote a truly respectful evolution from a one-household to a two-household family system. Click Here to learn more about Collaborative Teams.
Will my case be able to resolve with Collaborative Process?
An estimated 90-95% of cases can resolve with Collaborative Process, but some cases are not appropriate for Collaborative Process.  If your case involves significant domestic violence or serious mental health issues, it may not be appropriate for Collaborative Process.  If either you or your spouse cannot be honest or will not use the Collaborative Process in good faith, then Collaborative Process may be inappropriate.  If you do not get along with your spouse, conflict alone is not a reason to avoid the Collaborative Law process.  
How is a Collaborative Divorce Different from a Conventional Divorce?

In a conventional divorce, parties rely upon the court system and judges to resolve their disputes. Unfortunately, in a conventional divorce you often come to view each other as adversaries, and your divorce may be a battleground. The resulting conflicts can take an immense emotional and financial toll on the family and can be especially damaging to the children.

Collaborative Practice is a non-adversarial approach. Your lawyers, and any other collaborative professionals who work with you, pledge in writing not to go to court. They negotiate in good faith, and work together with you to achieve mutual settlement outside the courts. The Collaborative Process eases the emotional strains of a breakup, and protects the well-being of children.  Unlike a court process, Collaborative Practice allows you the opportunity to address emotional issues and consider more creative financial solutions.

What if I have a legal issue that must be addressed right away?

The Collaborative Process allows for immediate resolution of issues that are important to you or your spouse.  In fact, many people who use Collaborative Process find that their concerns are more quickly and efficiently addressed than people who use the court system.  Tell your lawyer if you have a concern that must be resolved right away – or just bring it up at the next meeting.

The goal of the Collaborative Process is to meet your highest priorities while also honoring the highest priorities of your spouse and the people affected by your legal dispute (children or other family members)

What Will My Collaborative Divorce Case Cost?

Clients should not select this approach simply as a “low cost” alternative.  However, experience suggests that savings over a normal adversarial divorce may be significant.   The cost of a Collaborative Divorce depends on a number of factors.  These factors include the difficulty and number of issues to be resolved, the professionals’ hourly rates, the costs of getting the necessary data or information from others, and the amount of time you and your team needs to spend on your case.

However, the agreements that can be accomplished in each Collaborative Process case within a short period of time make Collaborative Process very economical compared with conventional court cases.  Most Collaborative Process lawyers would estimate that legal fees of Collaborative Process are about one-third to one-half the legal fees of litigation.

It is reasonable to expect a clear explanation of the professionals’ billing policies.  Attorneys, Communication Coaches, Child Specialists and Financial Neutrals will charge you for the time spent in conference with you, preparation for conference, telephone calls, and document production.  While there are many factors which affect the total cost, far and away the biggest factor is how quickly agreement is reached.

Is Collaborative Process a faster way to get a divorce?

Collaborative Process cases generally resolve within about two to six months.  Conventional court cases can require four months to more than two years.  You and your spouse will determine how quickly your case is resolved, but factors in favor of quicker resolution include flexible scheduling and reduced conflict.  Conflict is increased in conventional court cases, which can contribute to the length of time a conventional court case can take to resolve. 

What if someone hides information or isn’t truthful or forthright, or misuses the Collaborative Process?

Whether your case is conventional court or Collaborative Process, people can hide information or be dishonest.  In conventional litigation, the consequences for this conduct can vary depending on the judge.  In some conventional court cases, the judge may not apply consequences to an allegation of dishonesty or deceit.  In Collaborative Process, the consequence is the threat of termination of the process and the loss of legal counsel. 

How Can I Interest My Spouse In The Collaborative Divorce Process?

If you are able to have a discussion with the other person about Collaborative Process, remind them of the values you share.  Discuss the shared love and affection you have for your children in common or beloved relatives or pets.  Discuss your desire to be fair with each other and minimize financial harm to you both.  Finding shared values and vocalizing those values can help create the first common step to Collaborative Process.

Many spouses seem reluctant to consider Collaborative Divorce for the simple fact that he or she has never heard of the Collaborative Process. Encourage your spouse to learn more and suggest that he or she visit this website and the International Association of Collaborative Professionals website (www.collaborativepractice.com).  Please contact any Collaborative Divorce Professional listed in the “Find a Professional” tab above or look at the “Resources” section on our Website for more information and additional material that you can provide to your spouse


If my spouse/partner agrees that the Collaborative Process should be used in our case, what steps do we take next?
The first step is to retain a lawyer who will commit to use the Collaborative Process. You must have a lawyer to use the Collaborative Law process.  Click Here to find a Collaborative Attorney or contact any Collaborative Divorce Attorney listed in the “Find a Professional” tab above.