The World of Collaborative Practice > The Divorce Weekend: A Stream-lined Approach to Collaborative Law

Posted on July 20, 2013


From Brian Garvey, Esq., and Sandra Young, Esq., on an innovative and expedited way to practice collaborative divorce:

In almost every consultation, the prospective clients have two questions – how long will this take and what will be the cost?  The standard answer is always, “Well it will depend on how many issues we have to resolve and how well you and your spouse are willing to work together.” After the divorce is finalized, I sometimes receive feedback that they didn’t realize it was going to take so long or cost so much. This, of course, is the unpredictable nature of the practice.

To address this opportunity for improvement, we have started a 2-day divorce program or The Divorce Weekend that charges a flat fee. The fees are paid before the weekend is scheduled. Each spouse hires either Sandra Young or Brian Garvey as his/her collaborative attorney. We make it very clear to the clients upfront that we are two separate attorneys practicing law individually. Each attorney has a signed engagement letter with his/her client with all of the necessary provisions for re-scheduling, refunds, and details what is included and what is excluded. The clients are carefully screened to make sure that they are both emotionally prepared to be able to move ahead and make the necessary decisions in such a condensed time frame. A coach might be used to help keep the process moving forward and encourage the couple to continue on if things start to get complicated. A child specialist might also become involved and do some work ahead of the weekend session pertaining to parenting issues that both attorneys feel need to be addressed prior to The Divorce Weekend.

We also provide a financial checklist that must be completed at least 10 days before The Divorce Weekend begins. All of the bank statements, paystubs, credit card statements, house value – everything is accounted for ahead of time. We then supply this to a Financial Neutral expert that is separately retained as a part of the team.  Each attorney talks to his/her client before the weekend to find out what are their dreams, hopes, concerns, and hot button issues.

To start the weekend, we first review the Participation Agreement that is signed by everyone involved. Just as a typical collaborative case, we start with the clients talking about what they want out of the process – their hopes, goals and concerns; however, this is where the similarity ends. Instead of stopping there with assignments to gather the financial docs or discuss parenting time and then scheduling a series of team meetings, phone calls, and professional meetings, we get to it right away because the assignments have already been done and we can press on.

Read more on The World of Collaborative Practice Magazine.