I'd like to find out more about an amicable divorce, but think mediation has too little structure. I think collaborative attorneys might be better. How do I know the attorneys have been trained properly?
I am an experienced Matrimonial attorney that has also been trained in collaborative law. I am in Monmouth County NJ. Collaborative law can work very well PROVIDED the parties trust each other. One of the important requirements in Collaborative Law is if one, or both, of the parties decides they no longer wish to "collaborate" and instead litigate, the attorney's are required to leave the case and the parties must hire new counsel on both sides. If that happens, it costs the clients more. Collaborative law is designed to weed out the unreasonable or war like lawyers who have a tendency to try to brash away the opposition or play deceptive games with peoples lives to make money for themselves.
There are a few groups in New Jersey specializing in this new type of process for divorce and a lot of New Jersey attorneys are holding themselves out as collaborative divorce practitioners or as having received collaborative divorce training. Some of them, however, are still seriously into litigating cases, which is what you are trying to avoid, and you want to ensure that both your attorney and your spouses attorney are committed to this process.
If you were further south in the state I would love to work with you. In my opinion the best person up in your area is named Linda Piff. She knows this area of the law and is tireless in educating other attorneys and professionals about collaborative divorce.
I'd suggest, above and beyond the answers above, to get the names of several attorneys and ask them during the consult what their background is.
Collaborative Divorce is, as you indicate, a different process from mediation. The participants sign an agreement not to litigate and a third party assists in resolving the dispute, including helping you obtain other professionals (psychologists, accountants, etc).
My only additional comment / thought -- are you sure you need it? Many people ask about mediation and then realize that they really don't even need that level of cost and involvement - if the two of you have reached an agreement and your issues aren't complex, then you don't need mediation (or arbitration or collaborative divorce or litigation). You're giving up certain rights - like discovery (the process of obtaining and verifying information, etc), but you may just need an uncontested divorce.
It differs by state, but most have the option for an attorney to specialize in an area of law, or at least take advanced seminars/courses in a particular topic, like collaborative law. I've attached a website from the NJ Supreme Court showing attorney's that are certified in Matrimonial (family) law. Looks like they do not have a collaborative law specialization, per se, but some of these attorneys likely have plenty of experience and have taken those courses. Good luck.
Disclaimer: This answer is intended for educational and informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice nor forming the attorney client relationship. This attorney is licensed in TX.