Collaborative Law & Mediation

What Is Collaborative Law And How Does It Work?

If parties want to fight over who keeps the Rolling Stones CDs, or just can't wait for their day in court, then Collaborative Law is NOT the way to go. In Collaborative Law, the goal is to establish an open, cooperative environment, so that parties can stay out of court, and instead work towards an agreed settlement that both parties can accept.

Collaborative Law involves a series of private, team meetings, rather than court appearances.

The meetings and discussions are confidential.

There is minimal involvement with the Court.

The terms of the final divorce agreement can be kept private.

Experienced professionals help the parties come to agreements.

The cornerstone of Collaborative Law is the Participation Agreement, and the Disqualification Clause, which says that if a full settlement is not reached, the attorneys must withdraw, and new attorneys will then take the case into the traditional litigation & court process. Only a signed Participation Agreement can quiet the veiled threats of litigation and the "take it or leave it" positioning that can arise in traditional litigation cases.

If a lawyer tells you he or she can work "collaboratively" with your spouse's attorney, it may be a perfectly fine way to proceed, but it is not truly a Collaborative Law matter, and court may be right around the corner when the first disputes arises.

Who is a Collaborative Attorney?

Collaborative Law attorneys have specialized knowledge and experience, and help guide the parties through the process. Your attorney advocates for you, identifies questions and issues that need resolution, provides legal advice, generates and evaluates resolution options, manages conflict, and assists the parties in reaching agreements.

Who is a Collaborative Law Mental Health Professional?

This is a licensed professional with specialized training in Collaborative Law, who assists each client to communicate positively and effectively within the process. This person does not act as a therapist. Rather, they use their expertise to assist everyone involved to manage emotional and psychological issues with the goal of promoting problem solving and settlement.

The Mental Health Professional performs these functions:

Identifies and prioritizes your interests and concerns.

Identifies and offers assistance in dealing with and managing strong emotions that might interfere with reaching resolution.

Uses his or her training to promote good communication throughout the collaborative process.

Helps you to develop and implement an effective parenting plan.

Helps you to learn and maintain skills for co-parenting.

Assists you and the Collaborative professionals to manage any roadblocks to the resolution of your divorce or family law matter.

Who is the Child Specialist?

A family law case can lead to unnecessary fighting over the kids. Custody fights or fights over the number of days per week parents see the kids can be a nightmare, especially for the kids. With the child specialist, parents work informally to create parenting plans that work best for their children.

The child specialist is a licensed mental health professional with specific training and experience in family systems and child development. Further, he or she has training and experience in working with families in the midst of a divorce or other child custody or parenting issue. The child specialist helps parents remain focused on the feelings and needs of the children.

The child specialist is a representative or "voice" of the child or children's feelings, needs, and interests.

Many times, the role of Mental Health Professional and the Child Specialist will be performed by the same mental health professional.

Who is the Financial Specialist?

The financial specialist is a certified financial planning practitioner, chartered financial consultant, certified divorce planner or certified public accountant, and will have met additional training requirements to qualify him or her to handle the unique financial challenges presented in divorce and family law cases.

The financial specialist helps you understand and value your financial data, identify and clarify financial goals and interests and explore short and long term implications of different settlement options.

The financial specialist assists you by:

Facilitating safe, honest and informed financial communication.

Providing an unbiased and neutral assessment of your finances.

Utilizing charts and graphs to help you and your attorneys understand the estimated tax and financial results of settlement ideas concerning support and asset division.

In general, a successful Collaborative Law case increases the chances of keeping a positive relationship with your spouse. Litigation pits each spouse against the other. In Collaborative cases, the parties work to achieve mutually beneficial goals. With creative solutions, they can avoid the old win-lose scenario.

What is Mediation?

Mediation is usually a one or two day process in which an impartial third-party mediator helps parties reach a binding settlement agreement. Most courts require mediation often because it has a high success rate. Today, mediation, either voluntary or court mandated, is the most common form of dispute resolution for divorcing couples.

The Divorce Mediation Process

Mediation is most effective after the parties have exchanged all financial and child-related information, and have a good understanding of what evidence will be presented in court if a settlement agreement is not reached. As a result, most, but not all, mediations take place after a case has been pending for a number of weeks or months.

Once the decision to mediate is made, it is necessary to find a mediator. Your attorney should help find mediators with experience, and specific knowledge of family law. It is also important to consider the mediator's style and mediation philosophy.

The fees charged vary from mediator to mediator, and may be charged on an hourly basis, or by the day or half-day. In general, mediators help the parties and attorneys explore options, and negotiate a mutual settlement that resolves the dispute. Mediators do not determine who is right or wrong. Instead, they help the parties reach a solution that works for them. Generally, the mediator will place the parties with their attorneys in separate rooms, and shuttle back and forth between them in "private caucuses." A private caucus is a conference between the mediator and one party, without the other party being present. The mediator relays offers and demands between the parties. Conversations between a party and the mediator during private caucus are confidential unless a party authorizes the mediator to disclose information to the other side.

The parties are not required to reach an agreement, and the mediator will not act like a judge and render a decision. If the case does settle, the mediator will have the parties sign a binding, irrevocable settlement agreement. If a settlement is not reached, the parties will proceed forward with the litigation and can decide to resolve the case in court.

Adam Seidel has extensive experience with Collaborative Law matters, and has helped numerous clients settle cases in mediation. Call 214-528-3344 (Dallas) or 972-312-1212 (Plano) today and set up an initial consultation. or fill out the form on this website.