Collaborative Divorce Lawyers in Washington
About the Collaborative Divorce Process
The divorce process that most people are familiar with is the traditional
method of litigation, which uses our justice system, which is by nature
an adversarial process. The vast majority of divorce cases are resolved
by negotiated agreement between the parties; however, if parties are unable
to reach a settlement in
family law matters using the traditional approach, then the parties must go to court and
present their cases before a judge, who will hopefully rule in favor of
your desired outcome.
Litigation is appropriate in many situations, but it is not always the
ideal avenue for every couple seeking a divorce. Collaborative divorce
may be a better option for couples in a low-conflict situation where there
is a mutual goal to leave the marriage as amicably as possible while achieving fairness.
Collaborative Law: What You Need to Know
Collaborative Law refers to a method of resolving family law cases in a
way that prohibits court intervention. Collaborative Law can be used in
a variety of Washington State family law cases, including divorces, legal
separations, child support modifications, parenting plan modifications,
paternity matters, and relocation cases.
Some benefits of Collaborative Divorce to consider include:
- The "final say" will not be in the hands of a judge
- Potentially less costly than traditional divorce, especially when heavy
litigation is involved
- Often, this option is less adversarial and more amicable than traditional divorce
The Collaborative Divorce lawyers at McKinley Irvin have helped many divorcing
couples reach reciprocally satisfying resolutions in a civil and respectful
manner by using various dispute resolution approaches, including Collaborative Divorce.
Working Together to Reach a Mutually Agreeable Resolution
In the unique process of Collaborative Divorce, each party retains a lawyer
specially trained to handle Collaborative Divorce cases. The lawyers representing
both parties are not at odds, as is the case with divorce litigation,
but rather work as a team to reach a mutually agreeable resolution.
The collaborative team not only includes the divorcing couple and their
lawyers, but can also include a financial specialist, a divorce coach,
and a child specialist if children are involved.
Signing a Participation Agreement
The Collaborative Divorce process commences with the signing of a participation
agreement. By signing this agreement, both parties and their team members
agree to resolve all disputes outside of court and in a respectful, confidential
manner. The Participation Agreement also includes information about the
Collaborative Divorce process, such as its rules and expectations.
Settling And Resolving Collaborative Divorce Cases
In our experience, arriving at a resolution in collaborative cases typically
takes about the same amount of time as traditional divorce cases. The
lawyers will draft the formal agreement once both parties agree on a settlement,
and enter the agreed final orders with a court which legally dissolves
the marriage. These steps complete the collaborative proceeding with the court.
The 4 Key Principles of Collaborative Law
In theory, the Collaborative Law process sounds like the perfect choice,
but divorce and family law matters are emotionally charged. In reality,
the parties frequently cannot work together effectively and are unable
to agree on what constitutes a fair and reasonable resolution. Many instances
make Collaborative Law a poor choice, such as domestic violence, a historical
imbalance of power in the relationship, a lack of trust, or the inability
to constructively or respectfully communicate.
The four key principles in Collaborative Law are:
- Both parties commit at the outset to resolve all issues by agreement without
court intervention, and without threatening court intervention.
- If either client seeks court intervention at any time, both attorneys must
withdraw from representation, and each party must hire a new attorney
to represent them.
- Both parties and the attorneys agree to participate in good faith negotiations,
disclosure of all information openly and freely, and interact in a respectful manner.
- All participants agree that all communications (oral or written) prepared
during the Collaborative Law process are inadmissible in any future court
proceeding without the express written consent of the participants.
Collaborative Law vs. Cooperative & Traditional Law
There are fundamental difference between Collaborative Law, Cooperative
Law, and traditional law practice.
If negotiations don’t work:
Collaborative Law – You must fire your attorney, hire a new attorney who will go to
court, and start your case over from the very beginning.
Cooperative Law & Traditional Law Practice – Your case continues with your attorney, the work done up to the
point of failed negotiations is preserved, and the court or arbitrator
decides unresolved issues.
McKinley Irvin offers Collaborative Law representation in family law matters.
We believe it can work for some, but also that clients should approach
this method after complete disclosure of the pros and cons, and with the
knowledge that there are alternative methods of dispute resolution which
may have less drastic consequences than Collaborative Law.
"What if we can't come to an agreement?" - Terminating the Collaborative Process
The Collaborative Divorce process is not right for everyone. In some cases,
both parties may be unable to come to an agreement. In this event, the
collaborative process can be terminated. Once the collaborative process
is terminated, both parties can move forward using the traditional method,
but may not do so using the attorneys or experts involved during the Collaborative
By choosing to terminate the collaborative process and move forward with
the traditional dispute resolution process, both parties are essentially
- Retain new counsel - collaborative attorneys cannot represent the parties
in any future litigation or traditional adversarial process, and
- Start case work over - in court, you generally cannot use the work that
was done in the collaborative process.
For those who like the idea of minimizing conflict but without the risk
of having to hire new divorce lawyers and starting the process over again,
we recommend considering the Cooperative Divorce dispute resolution model.
Is Collaborative Divorce Right For You?
Divorcing is not always an easy process, regardless of the method you choose.
Our team of skilled professionals will ensure that you choose the best
dispute resolution process for your unique situation. While Collaborative
Divorce is generally a more amicable option, it does not mean you and
your spouse have to agree at all times or on all points. Choosing this
method does, however, require both parties to be willing to understand
one another's point of view and to treat each other with respect in order
to arrive at a mutually beneficial resolution.
Collaborative Divorce also requires a significant amount of time and focus
on communication, four-way meetings, and engaged processing between the
parties themselves, with their attorneys, and with collateral professionals
involved in the case. As such, parties should be equally secure and confident
in their ability to openly and honestly communicate with one another.
Collaborative Divorce may also be a suitable option for non-traditional
families, such as couples in
same-sex relationships or couples in
non-marital relationships. The laws governing these family relationships are constantly evolving,
and our lawyers are at the forefront of this emerging area of family law.
McKinley Irvin will help you navigate through the unique issues and process
involved in Collaborative Divorce, whether you are in a traditional or
non-traditional family situation. If you are considering divorce and would
like to explore your options for resolving your divorce, we encourage you to
contact us and schedule a consultation. The Collaborative process is just one of
several approaches available for couples seeking a divorce. We will help
you identify the process, whether Collaborative or otherwise, that is
best for your particular circumstances.