The Process

Imagine a process where family issues can be settled cooperatively, openly, and without going to court. Think about a method of dispute resolution that enables both partners to work together to advance their separate needs and interests. Explore the possibility of working with professionals who are genuinely committed to helping you find and implement your best decisions for each of you and your children.

Imagine, think and explore no more: Collaborative Law may be the answer for you. Whenever spouses are facing the difficulties of separation and divorce, there is a tangible option to the unfortunate reality and—even the mere threat—of ending your relationship in the courtroom. By selecting Collaborative Attorneys and engaging in Collaborative Practice, couples are able to achieve a sense of dignity and fairness through results that are meant to allow each partner to survive: and to thrive long into the future.

The essence of Collaborative Law is the shared belief that it is in the best interest of the family to avoid litigation. Collaborative sessions occur in meetings between the couple and their Collaborative Professionals. The settlement team is comprised of the parties, their collaboratively-trained attorneys, a facilitator/coach, and a financial neutral.

Because everyone is committed to remain out of the courthouse, both in theory and by a signed collaborative contract, the damage often inflicted by adversarial conflicts in the judicial system is removed. Settlement is the goal and it is accomplished with the utmost of integrity and good faith. Through safe and focused discussions face-to-face, each participant is heard and the impact of outcomes is carefully assessed.

Collaborative Practice around the country—actually all across the globe—has evolved into a variety of different models, yet it is distinguished from traditional litigation everywhere by its essential core elements:

  • Negotiation of a mutually acceptable settlement without allowing courts to decide any issues for the clients;
  • Use of trained professionals who must withdraw from representation if either spouse chooses to litigate;
  • Commitment to open communications and voluntary, thorough, and genuine disclosure of financial and parenting information; and
  • Creation of bilateral solutions that take into account the highest priorities of both spouses, accomplished privately and with respect and dignity.

While Collaborative Law may not be right for every client facing the breakup of the family unit, the process should be a welcome and workable alternative for spouses committed to focusing on the future well-being of their children and of each other.

The Advantages

Nobody wants to endure the public spectacle of a contested family matter adjudicated in the courts. The costs of domestic relations litigation, emotionally and financially alike, are enormous and often create deep divisions that endure long after the days spent at trial. Collaborative Law represents the mutual choice of two partners to eliminate from the negotiation table any possibility of an adversarial contest conducted before a judge.

Although the concept and practice of Collaborative Law began in the Midwest in 1990, it was not until 2003 that a group of enthusiastic Syracuse-area family attorneys embraced the notion that litigation is simply not the answer for many clients. Today, collaboration is fast-becoming a very well recognized method of dispute resolution throughout Central New York. Not only are Collaborative Attorneys involved in the shift away from litigation, but Mental Health and Financial Professionals are also active collaborative proponents and practitioners. Among the collective advantages to Collaborative Law in family disputes are:

  • Spouses maintain control of the process entirely outside of the court system;
  • Priority is always given to the children’s needs;
  • Both partners commit to reaching agreement through a problem-solving approach;
  • An atmosphere of respect enhances goodwill and self-esteem;
  • Spouses express their needs for moving forward and can plan for their lives apart;
  • Full disclosure of facts and information is assured;
  • Active listening to each spouse's interests permits constructive dialogue;
  • Collaborative Attorneys trust each other and the process to attain reasonable goals without any threat of litigation as an option;
  • Creativity and cooperation allow more effective solutions than rigid legal standards;
  • Meetings take place at the convenience of the parties, not at the directive of the courts; and
  • Settlement—not “winning at all costs”—is paramount.

Maybe the single best advantage of Collaborative Practice is the mindset of every participant put into action that allows a divorcing couple a safe, peaceful, productive, and empathic environment to take the next steps into the future. Court is never an option.