Collaborative law is a process in which the attorneys and the parties sign an agreement that they will all work to facilitate resolution of all issues through settlement. Collaborative law focuses on resolution through settlement.
From Susan's interview for the Masters of Family Law series on ReelLawyers.com.
Divorcing spouses must remove themselves from the collaborative law process if they find that they are unable or unwilling to reach a settlement of the issues. When divorcing spouses reach the point where the collaborative process is not successful, then the attorneys withdraw from continued representation of the parties and new legal counsel must be found. Typically, the attorney who represents a party will refer the party to an attorney who will take the case through the process of litigation.
We do not presently engage in the practice of collaborative law. We believe that it can be a very effective means of resolving disputes and keeping costs down, but we have some real concerns. We do not believe that an informal process of gathering information always serves the best interests of all parties. This is particularly true when one party has controlled all of the financial aspects of the marriage and the other spouse does not know or understand what has transpired during the marriage. We have concerns that sometimes the collaborative process does not address and protect the needs of the economically disadvantaged party.
We, also, do not agree with the concept that an attorney must or should withdraw from representation if the case does not settle. There are significant economic and emotional disadvantages to this type of arrangement with counsel as structured in the collaborative law process.
It has been our experience that clients and attorneys form a bond that is, in part, due to time. The client becomes more at ease and trust is built over time as they see the attorney work on their behalf. For most individuals, divorce is a scary and stressful process. To tell a client that he or she is being cut loose because there is no settlement or because their spouse wishes to back out of the process seems, to us, punitive.