Cooperative divorce is a term that loosely describes an informal agreement among lawyers and clients to act civilly, fully disclose all relevant information, cooperate in obtaining joint appraisals and expert opinions, and attempt negotiations in good-faith. It may include four way sessions where appropriate and mediation.
Unlike collaborative law, it does not require the lawyers to withdraw if a divorce settlement cannot be reached through negotiations. Parties may decide to pursue traditional litigation at any point.
Collaborative Divorce – Frequently Asked Questions
What is Collaborative Law?
Collaborative Law is a form of dispute resolution that some couples choose to pursue as an alternative to the traditional divorce process. In Washington State, it is governed by the Uniform Collaborative Law Act (“UCLA”). It is a process in which both parties are represented by counsel. Unlike cooperative law, clients are required to sign an agreement (i.e., participation agreement) that says if either party decides to leave the process, new attorneys must be obtained. That often serves as incentive to continue the process to resolution.
IS COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE RIGHT FOR US?
If you and your spouse can commit to good faith negotiations, are comfortable with face to face discussions and negotiations, trust each other’s word, and are willing to understand the other person’s point of view and goals, collaborative law is a good option. That does not mean that you have to get along perfectly or already agree on most things. You just have to be committed to treating each other with respect and to reaching a mutually beneficial resolution.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of collaborative law?
Collaborative law allows parties to negotiate with a lawyer at their side but without the imminent risk of the case proceeding to court. The downside is that, if negotiations fail, the parties will be put to the additional expense of hiring new counsel, though those potential costs provide incentive for the lawyers and clients to negotiate productively.
Is collaborative law less expensive than non-collaborative law?
While it avoids litigation costs such as obtaining temporary court orders, there is no empirical data showing it decreases costs. The costs depend on the ability of the parties and their counsel to come to agreement on all issues within a reasonable time period.
What if I am interested in collaborative law but my spouse is not?
Both parties must agree to use the collaborative law process.
What if the parties cannot reach agreement in the collaborative law process?
If the parties are not able to reach final agreement, they may agree to attempt to mediate an agreement using a third party mediator and/or arbitrate any remaining disputes issues. They may also seek court intervention by terminating the collaborative process. Both collaborative attorneys must withdraw and both parties must seek new litigation counsel — the collaborative attorneys cannot represent the parties in any future litigation. Likewise, parties generally cannot use the work that done in the collaborative process in court.
Bo Weintraub is a trained in collaborative law practice and has represented numerous clients in Seattle collaborative law cases. Call Weintraub Law Office at (425) 374-4045 or contact us online to request a consultation for your complex Seattle divorce.
Weintraub Law Office has offices in Seattle, Bellevue, and Bothell and represents clients in King, Snohomish, and Pierce County.