The Collaborative Divorce Process
Washington State has adopted the Uniform Collaborative Law Act (RCW 7.77). For a case to be a Collaborative action under this statute there must be:
- Two Parties
- Each Party Represented by an Attorney
- A Signed Contract (Participation Agreement) That Includes a Disqualification Provision for the Attorneys
During our initial consultation we will explore whether you are a candidate for the Collaborative Process. Not every client, nor every attorney, is able to proceed in the Collaborative approach to conflict resolution as the process requires a different, specialized, set of skills.
A Collaborative divorce is very different from litigation. In the Collaborative process the clients drive the process, with the help of Collaboratively trained professionals.
The Collaborative Process starts with the signing of the Participation Agreement, an essential part of the process. The signing of the Participation Agreement includes the ritual of reading the Agreement out loud in the first Team meeting. The reason for doing this is that the Participation Agreement is the cornerstone of the Collaborative Process, it modifies the rules of professional conduct that govern the way the attorneys practice their profession, and it provides informed consent and full disclosure to the clients so they know what their obligations are in committing to the process and what the rules are for being in the process. The goal of the process is to do everything necessary to allow the clients to build a resolution that reflects as much as possible each person’s interests so that their agreement is “durable”.
Studies have showed that there is a higher satisfaction rate for persons who have gone through the Collaborative process than those who litigated their divorce.
Parties who have worked from a place of integrity and honesty to put together an agreement have fewer problems in the future. The agreements that are being built in the Collaborative structure are more durable than the decisions handed down by courts when the parties are unable to reach agreement on their own. This results in emotional and financial savings to the parties.
If the Collaborative case terminates the attorneys of the parties must withdraw. They cannot represent either party in future contested proceedings. The reason for the disqualification provision is to prevent a situation where an attorney wants to use the Collaborative process to gather information about the other party for later use in litigation. Without the disqualification provision an attorney could gain an advantage for their client by instructing them NOT to be honest. One side would be acting with integrity and the other would not. The disqualification clause is present because it protects the clients. It means that each person on the Team is committed to the process and that there is no ulterior motive on the part of any Team member.
The more the focus is on the well-being of the parties and the children the better the process. It is important that the attorneys support the clients’ desire that we represent them with integrity and honesty in the divorce process with the ultimate goal being to fashion final agreements that reflect the goals and best interests of each party, including the best interests of any children.
Advantages of Collaborative Divorce
Here are some comments offered by clients about the advantages choosing the Collaborative Divorce Process:
- The interests and needs of my children were kept at the top of the list throughout the process.
- We finished the process more quickly than we would have in litigation.
- My desire to keep the costs of the process low was respected by the Team.
- Given that I am happy with the agreement that is reached I do not foresee having to hire an attorney in the future to try to make changes.
- I know if anything comes up in the future that my ex and I cannot reach agreement on that the Collaborative Team is there to help us reach agreement.
- This process was not filled with hostility and resentment.
- I found my ex and I communicating much better during and after the process then we were before. The children notice the better communication between us, which is a great positive.
If you have questions, or are seeking legal representation for a divorce, please contact us for assistance.