Collaborative Law

Divorce doesn’t need to be a long, expensive and devastating process. If you and your spouse have decided to get a divorce, but want to resolve your differences reasonably and get a divorce without going to court, a Collaborative Law divorce might be a good option for you. Using Collaborative Law, a couple can frequently avoid the negativity, hostility, and cost of litigation. The couple retains control of the decision-making process, and they can create long-term solutions that will likely work better for their family than what a judge might decide. They also form the positive foundation for working together as parents in the future.

What is Collaborative Law?

Collaborative Law is a formal legal process guided by attorneys who have been extensively trained in both Divorce Mediation and Collaborative Law in family law cases, along with the support of neutral professionals, if needed, such as financial experts, mental health professionals, and child specialists. The couple’s attorneys and any neutral professionals retained form their “Collaborative Law Team,” with the shared goal of helping the couple resolve issues fairly and amicably.

As a part of the Collaborative Law Process, the couple agrees to use good faith efforts to reach a mutually agreeable settlement and to disclose all relevant information voluntarily. They also agree that if a settlement can’t be reached through the Collaborative Divorce Process, both partners will cut ties with their collaborative law attorneys and hire new litigation attorneys. A collaborative law attorney generally cannot represent his or her collaborative client in later litigation.

How does Collaborative Law work?

The Collaborative Law Process involves attending a series of meetings with at least four people present – the spouses or partners, and their respective attorneys. Before beginning, the client, spouse, and attorneys will sign a “Four Way Agreement,” which is also called a “Collaborative Participation Agreement.”

There are four stages to the Collaborative Divorce process:

  1. The first stage involves building the Collaborative Law team, then gathering and sharing all relevant information with the team.
  2. During the second stage, the team works together to create options for settlement.
  3. The third stage includes creating agreements based on the settlement options and working together with the team until all issues are resolved, and paperwork is complete.
  4. In the final stage of a Collaborative Law divorce, the paperwork is submitted to a judge for signature without a trial, and the divorce is concluded.

How do I know if a Collaborative Law Divorce is a good option for me?

Collaborative Law is a good option for couples who have children and want to remain friends, or at least want to parent well together after their divorce or legal separation. During traditional divorce litigation, partners/spouses are often pitted against each other with the goal of “winning,” based on advice from their legal counsel. That approach creates more anger, hurt feelings and resentment, which makes parenting after divorce unnecessarily difficult.

There are some drawbacks to consider with Collaborative Law divorce. The process can become expensive if multiple, neutral professionals are needed in every meeting. Scheduling also becomes a challenge when multiple participants are involved, and meetings can go on longer than anticipated, which extends the divorce process. Obstructionist and controlling individuals can use the process to “bully” their spouse with no immediate relief available. It’s also important to keep in mind that if a settlement can’t be reached through the Collaborative Law process, the couple will need to hire new attorneys and incur the related expense of beginning over again with a new attorney.

Our firm does not generally recommend the Collaborative Law process when there are significant mental health issues, a history of domestic violence and in cases of serious, untreated substance abuse.

You can find out more about Collaborative Law at the following websites:

Looking for a Collaborative Law Divorce Attorney in Seattle?

The collaboratively trained attorneys at Integrative Family Law provide tailored legal representation in Collaborative Law cases throughout Seattle and King County. We’ll work with you to build an effective Collaborative Law Team and develop a strategy that works for your family’s goals. Contact us at 206-859-6800.


Nothing on this page is intended as legal advice for an individual. Call us now to learn more about how we can assist in your specific situation.