Frequently Asked Questions:
1. How can I interest my spouse in the
Collaborative Divorce process?
Tell your spouse that your marriage has been
important, and you want to handle your divorce in a
way that avoids unnecessary damage to your family.
Tell your spouse that you are interested in a
collaborative, win-win conflict resolution. Share
materials with your spouse such as this website and
other materials available from each RMCLP member
that discuss Collaborative Divorce. Encourage your
spouse to select counsel who has experience and
training in Collaborative Law and who works
effectively with your own lawyer. Lawyers who trust
one another are an excellent predictor of success in
2. How does the cost of Collaborative Divorce
compare with the cost of litigation?
Litigation is, quite simply, the
typically the most expensive
way of resolving a dispute. It is common for
litigated divorces to begin with a motion for
temporary support. The result is exactly that—a
temporary order, not any final resolution of any
issues. It is common for a single temporary Orders
motion and hearing to cost as much or more in
lawyers’ fees as it costs for an entire
Collaborative Law representation. And that’s only
the beginning of the litigation process, which can
go for a year or more, involve extensive legal
maneuvering by the attorneys, more hearings, the
hiring of experts to support the attorneys’
arguments, and finally a lengthy trial. The
Collaborative Law process can move quickly and avoid
most, if not all, of these legal entanglements.
The costs associated with the
collaborative process will vary depending on a
variety of factors, including the complexity of the
issues, the number of professionals involved, and
the time it takes the collaborative team to work
though the issues in a quality way that is in the
parties' (and their children’s) best interests.
3. How is Collaborative Divorce different from
the traditional adversarial divorce process?
• In Collaborative Divorce, there is an open,
honest exchange of information. Neither party takes
advantage of the miscalculations nor mistakes of the
others, but instead identifies and corrects them.
• In Collaborative Divorce, both parties insulate
their children from their disputes and, should
custody be an issue, they avoid the professional
custody evaluation process.
• Both parties in Collaborative Divorce use the
same financial advisors, mental health consultants,
appraisers, and other consultants, instead of
needing opposing experts.
• In Collaborative Divorce, a respectful,
creative effort to meet the legitimate needs of both
spouses replaces tactical bargaining backed by
threats of litigation.
• In Collaborative Divorce, the lawyers must
guide the process to settlement or withdraw from
further participation, unlike adversarial lawyers,
who remain involved whether the case settles or a
trial is held.
• In Collaborative Divorce, there is parity of
payment to each lawyer so that neither party is at a
disadvantage because of the lack of funds, a
frequent problem in adversarial litigation.
4. What happens if one side or the other does
play “hide the ball,” or is dishonest in some way,
or misuses the Collaborative Divorce process to take
advantage of the other party?
That can happen. There are no guarantees that a
participant in the Collaborative Divorce process
will not act in bad faith; just as there also are no
guarantees in the litigation process. But you will
be represented by a lawyer who will pay close
attention to this issue. If she determines your
spouse is being dishonest, she will make sure that
both you and your spouse’s attorney know
immediately. You can end the process and go to
court. Also, the collaborative agreement requires a
lawyer to withdraw upon becoming aware that her
client is being dishonest, or participating in the
process in bad faith. For instance, if documents are
altered or withheld, or if a client is deliberately
delaying matters for economic or other gain, the
lawyers have promised in advance that they will
withdraw and will not continue to represent the
client. The same is true if the client fails to keep
agreements made during the course of negotiations;
for instance, an agreement to consult a vocational
counselor, or an agreement to engage in joint
5. My lawyer says she settles most of her cases.
How is collaborative divorce different from what she
does when she settles cases in a Conventional Law
Most litigated divorce cases settle figuratively,
if not literally, “on the courthouse steps.” By that
time, a great deal of money has been spent, and a
great deal of emotional damage can have been caused
by the parties or their lawyers taking extreme
positions on various issues. Decisions may have been
made by the judge earlier in the case, which favored
one party over the other, or which created
difficulties for both. The final settlement is
reached under conditions of considerable tension and
anxiety, and both “buyer’s remorse” and “seller’s
remorse” are common. Moreover, the settlements are
reached in the shadow of trial, and are generally
shaped largely by what the lawyers believe the judge
in the case is likely to decide based on the
positions the lawyers take. Nothing could be more
different from what happens in a collaborative law
settlement. The Collaborative Law process is
designed solely to make it possible for creative,
respectful collective problem solving by the only
people who will have to live with the decisions –
you and your spouse. It is quicker, less costly,
more creative, more individualized, less stressful,
and overall more satisfying in its results than what
occurs in settlements based on litigation.
6. What if my spouse and I can reach agreement
on almost everything, but there are one or two
issues on which we cannot agree? Would we have to
end the Collaborative Divorce process, lose our
collaborative lawyers, and go to court?
In that situation it is possible, if everyone
agrees (both lawyers and both clients), to submit
only those one or two issues for a decision by a
“private judge” chosen by the parties. This is done
with important limitations and safeguards built in,
so that the integrity of the Collaborative Law
process is not undermined. Everyone must agree that
the good faith atmosphere of the Collaborative Law
process would not be damaged by submitting the
issues for third party decision, and everyone must
agree on the issues and on who will be the decision
7. Is Collaborative Divorce the best choice for
It isn’t for every person, or every case, or even
every lawyer. However, it is worth considering if
some or all of these principles and objectives ring
true for you:
a) You want a civilized, respectful resolution of
b) The relationships you have created during your
marriage are important to your future, including
friends, extended family, and even your spouse.
c) You and your spouse will continue to parent
your children together, and you want the best
co-parenting relationship possible.
d) You want to protect your children from the
harm associated with a conflicted, litigated divorce
between their parents.
e) You have ethical or spiritual beliefs that
place a high value on taking personal responsibility
for handling conflicts with integrity.
f) You value privacy in your personal affairs and
do not want details of your problems to be available
in the public court record.
g) You value control and personal decision making
and do not want to hand over decisions about
restructuring your financial and parenting
arrangements to a judge who may not realize what is
important about your family.
h) You recognize the restricted range of outcomes
and “rough justice” generally available in the
public court system, and want a more creative and
individualized range of choices available to you and
your spouse or partner for resolving your issues.
i) You place as much or more value on your
children and the relationships that will exist in
your restructured family situation as you place on
obtaining the maximum possible amount of money for
l) You understand that conflict resolution with
integrity involves not only achieving your own
goals, but also finding a way to achieve the
reasonable goals of the other person.
l) You and your spouse will commit your
intelligence and energy toward creative problem
solving rather than toward recriminations or
revenge—fixing the problem rather than fixing blame.
8. Why is Collaborative Divorce such an
effective settlement process?
Because the collaborative lawyers have a
completely different state of mind about what their
job is than traditional lawyers generally bring to
their work. We call it a “paradigm shift.” Instead
of being dedicated to getting the largest possible
piece of the pie for their own client, no matter the
human or financial cost, collaborative lawyers are
dedicated to helping their clients achieve their
highest intentions for themselves in their
post-divorce restructured families.
Collaborative lawyers do not act as hired guns,
nor do they take advantage of mistakes inadvertently
made by the other side, nor do they threaten, or
insult, or focus on the negative either in their own
clients or on the other side. They expect and
encourage the highest good-faith problem-solving
behavior from their own clients and themselves, and
they stake their own professional integrity on
delivering that, in any collaborative representation
they participate in.
Collaborative lawyers trust one another. They still
owe a primary allegiance and duty to their own
clients, within all mandates of professional
responsibility, but they know that the only way they
can serve the true best interests of their clients
is to behave with, and demand, the highest integrity
from themselves, their clients, and the other
participants in the Collaborative Law process.
Collaborative Divorce offers a greater potential
for creative problem solving than does either
mediation or litigation, in that only collaborative
law puts two lawyers in the same room pulling in the
same direction with both clients to solve the same
list of problems. Lawyers excel at solving problems,
but in conventional litigation they generally pull
in opposite directions. No matter how good the
lawyers may be for their own clients, they cannot
succeed as collaborative lawyers unless they also
can find solutions to the other party’s problems
that both clients find satisfactory. This is the
special characteristic of Collaborative Law that is
found in no other dispute resolution process.