When an individual is interested in resolving their family law matter outside of court through the collaborative process, many are still fuzzy about the details. They may wonder the order in which all of this might take place. They might worry about the process itself.
All of these questions are normal and make sense. After all, resolving a divorce or family law matter collaboratively is still a relatively new concept to many individuals out there.
Certainly the exact resolution order of a collaborative divorce or family law case can vary. What certain parties and collaborative professionals do could vary based on the case. However, below is a good roadmap in terms of how many of these cases resolve.
First, both parties have to hire a lawyer that is trained in collaborative practice. They hire these lawyers on a limited scope representation agreement that indicates that the collaborative lawyers can only assist so long as the parties are engaged in the collaborative practice versus traditional litigation (where the parties would have to hire different lawyers). Importantly, lawyers who are trained in collaborative practice, according to the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (“IACP”), are lawyers who have gone through 40-hours of mediation training and 16-hours of interdisciplinary training in collaborative practice.
Second, after both parties have hired a lawyer trained in collaborative practice on a limited scope representation, both parties have to sign a participation agreement. A participation agreement denotes that the parties are going engage in collaborative methods, set forth by the IACP, to resolve their divorce or family law matter.
Third, after both parties have signed the participation agreement, the parties have to decide who else will be enlisted on the collaborative team to assist with the case. In other words, will the parties use a divorce coach? Will there be a finance and/or a child custody professional? If so these individuals need to be hired and made part of the team.
Fourth, after all of this has taken place, meetings need to take place to try to resolve the divorce or family law matter. The number of meetings (and who will be there) will vary based on the facts and circumstances of the case. It depends on how quickly the parties can reach a settlement.
Fifth, after a settlement agreement is reached, settlement documents need to be drawn up that reflect the agreement of the parties. After both parties have signed, the settlement agreement can be presented to the court to resolve the matter after the filing of the pleadings and the appropriate wait-periods. When parties never have to appear in court for a divorce, this can certainly help relieve a lot of stress.
Sixth, after all of this has taken place, the settlement paperwork is presented to the judge. They are either presented by affidavits (without either party having to appear in court) or at an uncontested hearing. The hope is that the judge will then sign the settlement paperwork and approve it as the judgment and order of the court.
Ultimately, there can be variance in terms of how this takes place exactly. But the above resolution order is a good general roadmap that can be helpful for most parties to better understand the collaborative process.