Professional Resolution Center > Collaborative Law – A Paradigm Shift to a New Beginning

Posted on July 21, 2013


From Sharon O’Day, Esq.:

It is, I believe, common knowledge that litigation is extremely expensive. The idea that one side should play “hide and seek” with information and only provide it to the other side when ordered to by a court is clearly not cost effective. As a litigation attorney I have seen how the price of a divorce and continue to climb as we conduct depositions, business valuations, forensic accounting reviews, social investigations, and every expanding legal discovery. Clearly all of this legal wrangling takes a long time to play out while all of the parties lives are on hold. Perhaps most tragic of all though is the emotional toll the litigated divorce has on the parties and their children. As animosity is escalated, the children clearly suffer.


So, some professionals that have worked in the system for many years have developed an alternative. The new system, Collaborative Law, allows the participants, the divorcing couples and their lawyers, to work together with trained financial and mental health professionals to find the best solutions to the issues that need to be resolved by the family. The main premise of a Collaborative Divorce is that the clients and the attorneys work together through negotiations to reach a settlement which meets as many of the parties needs as possible. The process is client and child focused. The parties agree to be open and honest in their communication and in providing all necessary documents or information to make informed decisions. The participants all promise to be respectful and honor the dignity of the process and the participants. Everyone involved in the process is committed to working towards healing the parties and the family. This means that the threats and intimidation are not used and there is never a goal of forcing the other side to prove their case to be successful.

Perhaps the hardest element of the collaborative process for untrained attorneys to grasp and agree to is the participation agreement. This contract, signed by the parties and the attorneys, provides that, should the collaborative process fail, the clients will retain new counsel to begin again. Most lawyers not trained in collaborative law will say, “I will work with the other side, but I will not sign a collaborative contract. I want to represent my client if settlement doesn’t work.” I am all too familiar with this statement because I made it before I understood the Paradigm shift. The shift is what allows the collaborative professional to fully participate in the process. The shift is when the collaborative attorney commits to laying down all the weapons in their litigation arsenal and fully embrace the new way of thinking and speaking that is completely collaborative.

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