What Is Collaborative Law?

“Collaborative law” is emerging as an alternative, non-adversarial way to resolve family law issues. Each party is represented by his or her separate lawyer. Sometimes, the parties will enter into a contract in which they agree to try to resolve all issues in their divorce in a collaborative manner, and further agree that they cannot go to court without voiding the contract. The process often includes a series of meetings with both lawyers and both parties present, in which there are reasoned discussions about issues and their resolution. Mediators and experts, such as appraisers or accountants, may also become involved, if necessary. The collaborative process creates an incentive for clients to work together, with each other and with the aid of their respective attorneys, to resolve their differences outside of a courtroom. There are drawbacks to the collaborative law process. Any party may decide to quit the process at any time. If that happens, the collaborative law process mandates that neither lawyer may thereafter represent his or her client in any litigation. That will make the case much more expensive, as the new lawyer will need to review and assess all of the information that was part of the collaborative law process, and proceed accordingly to either further negotiations or litigation.

Many of the best lawyers in Portland have not yet embraced collaborative law. However, the best and most professional lawyers generally approach a divorce with the same underlying goals that guide the collaborative law process: a resolution that respects each party and their children, that is fair, and that is reached through settlement, not litigation.

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