Monday, June 24, 2013

Finding a Better (and less bitter) Way to Divorce by Amy Alvis

Collaborate dispute resolution is a process that couples voluntarily may chose as an alternate way to resolve their issues in a divorce, legal separation, or other relationship termination without having to litigate issues in court. It is similar in ways to mediation however, it takes a more holistic approach by involving attorneys, counselors, financial advisors, tax advisors and any other professional who may be needed to help the parties settle their issues.  Unlike mediation, where no legal advice is provided to the parties by the mediator, the parties are each represented by legal counsel.

In order for this process to work both parties need to agree to participate in the collaborative process, typically in writing as well as the following:

1. They agree to fully disclose all relevant information to each other in the spirit of mutual cooperation and the avoidance of litigation.

2. They agree to act in good faith in the process and the goal of reaching a solution/settlement that is acceptable to each of them.

3. They each have their own attorney (typically one that is a collaborative practitioner or will act in such capacity) and accept that their attorney’s representation will end if the matter becomes contested. This is known as a “limited scope” representation.  This is also different than mediation where the parties may have an attorney advise them during mediation, but then later represent them in court if they are unable to reach an agreement in mediation.

4. The parties agree to engage the services of financial, tax, mental health, and/or other professionals to the extent their situation warrants, to evaluate the facts and then advise and make recommendations to the parties. These professionals will also stop their representation if the matter becomes contested.

The benefits of this process is that the parties feel much more in control of the outcome and solutions.  All persons involved become very familiar with the family, the financial issues, and all other relevant factors that go into the solution that becomes the mutual agreement.  Decisions are not left to the courts that often have very limited familiarity with the particular case and facts, nor really know the parties involved other than what they may see in their courtroom or read in the court pleadings. And finally, there is more trust in the process and confidence in the final agreement because the parties are each providing information to each other freely and openly.

To find out if collaborative practice is right for you, call Amy Alvis at Alvis Frantz and Associates at (925)  516-1617. Amy is a member of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals.