Authored By: Christopher Pearsall, RI Divorce Attorney
a.k.a. " The Rhode Island Divorce Coach ℠ "
Readers, Correct me if you think I am wrong. I've been reading a few books and websites that are fairly well read by attorneys and legal professionals and held in reasonably high regard and they have caused me some confusion. If I were to combine the explanations I have read and heard on collaborative divorce, I have heard that it can be a divorce involving attorneys, mediators and/or other professionals such as therapists, psychologists, clinical social workers, psychotherapists and any number of legal and/or mental health or other professionals capable of mediating parties to a divorce.
From what I have understood, this is way off the mark. Frankly, I'd like to make sure I have this right. To my way of thinking a collaborative divorce involves clients and attorneys. If other professionals are needed in addition to the attorneys then the lawyers would seek their assistance and/or participation for the betterment of the client's involved.
In a collaborative divorce the parties select attorneys to advise them and help them through divorce settlement negotiations. Typically the parties and their attorneys all sign what is often referred to as a "Participation Agreement/Participation Contract." The agreement essentially sets forth that the parties agree to whatever written and signed settlement agreement that they reach. Additionally, the attorneys agree that if, or when, the matter goes to litigation that neither attorney will represent the parties involved. I
The benefit of using the collaborative divorce process as I understand it, is that each party reaches a settlement they are bound to by their own agreement but they do not do so while being ignorant of their legal rights. Each client has their own attorney for purposes of reaching a settlement. There you have it, the ultimate goal. The idea is to reach a settlement and know your legal rights and the pros and cons for each decision you make and how it will affect you.
So, by hiring a collaborative law divorce attorney you hire the lawyer to help you settle the case. If the case doesn't settle using the collaborative law attorneys then each of the clients must get a new lawyer and duke it out in court.
Do I have it wrong? Some colleagues tell me no, other colleagues tell me I do have it wrong and that mediation itself is also a collaborative divorce process. I don't equate the two the same way even though the word "collaborative" might be a good word to describe the mediation process.
Someone obviously came up with this concept of collaborative law just as I founded the concept of Divorce and Family Law Coaching from the legal dynamic and not the emotional and therapeutic approach that many counselors, therapists and psychologists have developed throughout the country.
I would like the input from attorneys, judges, consumers and anyone who cares to chime in. I am a person who has wanted to know something and in knowing it to know that it is right. Does anyone have some good sources that might be found more reputable than others? I most assuredly won't dwell on the topic and I will participate as a collaborative lawyer as I believe the concept exists because I see the benefits received by clients in choosing this method and in operating in the way I have described.
I welcome your feedback so that I may continue to improve my practice for my clients.