The collaborative team comprises two collaboratively trained attorneys (one representing each spouse), a mental health professional who serves as the team’s family relations specialist, and a neutral financial professional. During the first collaborative meeting, the parties and professionals read and sign the collaborative contract. By signing the contract the parties are primarily agreeing to:
1. Have full transparency, voluntarily disclosing all information related to your dissolution without the employment of formal discovery procedures;
2. Conduct themselves with honesty, respect, and good faith towards on another;
3. Maintain the financial status quo established during the marriage by maintaining all current insurance policies and coverage, preserving assets, continuing to deposit income in the same accounts and paying bills in the same manner as had been done during the marriage until the parties agree otherwise;
4. Work as a team and not exploit any mistakes or oversights on the part of any other party or professional involved in the process.
Once the collaborative contract has been signed, the parties will meet and work with the family relations specialist to either work through parenting issues, or if there are no children involved, to work through communication issues and help them understand their goals and fears going into the dissolution process. There will then be a series of team meetings to gather and share all necessary information and documentation, discuss the goals and interests of both parties, generate options for all issues of parenting, property division, and support, and negotiate the ultimate outcome. The number of meetings required will vary on a case by case basis. All the while, the main focus of the process is on the goals and interests of the parties, and negotiating in good faith to generate creative outcomes that can best meet those goals and interests for both parties.
One major tenet of the collaborative process is the limited representation of the attorneys involved. The collaborative process is completely confidential. This encourages openness and transparency between the parties and between their attorneys, who are working together in a team-based approach, rather than as opposing counsel in an adversarial process. Because of this commitment to openness and transparency between not only the parties, but also their counsel, should one or both parties decide to terminate the collaborative process and proceed to litigation, both attorneys must withdraw as counsel, and both parties will have to retain new attorneys.
The collaborative process may not be the right option for every family. There are a number of ways to dissolve a marriage outside of litigation, including mediation and traditional settlement negotiations; however, for many people, they find that the collaborative process gives them an opportunity to feel heard, to maintain a certain level of control over the outcome, and to generate options that may not have been available in a more traditional negotiation model.
If you are considering the collaborative process, choosing the right professionals to make up your collaborative team is imperative. All of the attorneys at Phyllis G. Bossin & Associates have gone through extensive training in the collaborative process, and are active members of the Cincinnati Association of Collaborative Professionals (CACP), a practice group comprising attorneys, family relations specialists, and financial professionals dedicated to upholding the highest standards of practice within the collaborative process. Because the collaborative process is such a unique departure from traditional dissolution models, it is important to hire an attorney who is trained in the collaborative process and a member of the CACP.
For more information about the collaborative process and to find other members of the CACP, visit http://www.collaborativelaw.com
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