Collaborative law refers to a confidential and structured legal settlement process that individuals can voluntarily undertake in order to settle their disputes without going through court, arbitration or other forms of alternative dispute resolutions. The spouses will have an attorney to represent them and those attorneys will be involved in the collaborative law process every step of the way until the settlement is agreed upon by everyone involved. Because collaborative law is voluntary, the spouses and their attorneys have the right to end the process whenever they wish.
The collaborative law process can only start to happen after both spouses have signed a Collaborative Law Participation Agreement, which has to be endorsed by the attorneys. Under the terms of the participation agreement, the spouses must agree to a fourfold set of rules in order to go through with the collaborative law process.
First, both spouses must agree to provide full disclosure of all relevant facts and exchange any non-privileged information that may be required before the spouses can reach a settlement. Second, the spouses must agree to conduct all discussions relating to the collaborative law settlement in an amicable manner. Third, any expert witness who is called during the settlement process must be approved by all parties involved in the collaborative law proceedings. Finally, the parties must agree to withdraw the legal representatives in the event that the collaborative law process ends before a settlement can be reached.
The collaborative law process promotes a face-to-face interaction among all parties involved in the process. Thus, the collaborative law process is mostly recommended to those people who have had a long-term relationship, whether personal or professional, and who wish to preserve that relationship.
Source: Collaborative Law Section, State Bar of Texas, “What is Collaborative Law?” accessed May 7, 2015