Collaborative Family Law embraces a paradigm shift from the classic practice of family law. It engages a process specifically designed to eliminate the bitterness, rivalry, hostility and sense of "winners and losers" that plague traditional matrimonial litigation.
At the start of a Collaborative Family Law matter, both parties and their lawyers sign a contract. In the contract, both the spouses and the lawyers commit to working in a collaborative and cooperative manner to arrive at unique and creative solutions to address the problems facing the family and the interests -- as opposed to the position of the parties.
The contract also specifies that the parties will not commence court proceedings without first exhausting all avenues for cooperative resolution. Even more important, the lawyers agree that they will not participate in any court proceedings on behalf of their clients at any time. That is, if negotiations break down, both spouses must retain new lawyers if either wants to initiate court proceedings. As this can be very costly, there is incentive for both spouses to remain within the collaborative law regime and negotiate a resolution. Therefore, the practice of Collaborative Family Law focuses on cooperative and collaborative problem solving without the threat of litigation.
As a result, rather than court proceedings, the Collaborative Family Law process involves a series of meetings (as many as necessary) with both lawyers and clients present. At these meetings (and, in fact, through the whole process), the clients control the agenda, with guidance and advice from counsel. At the very outset, both parties agree to provide full financial information.
An integral part of the process, where necessary, is the joint retainer of outside specialists (mediators, financial planners, valuators, accountants, social workers, child psychologists, etc.) to help navigate particular issues that demand their respective expertise.
The cost to clients in the Collaborative Family Law process, even when other specialists are involved, can be significantly less than the costs of traditional litigation.
Several lawyers at Epstein Cole are trained to provide Collaborative Family Law Services.