Consult a Collaborative Law Attorney
The first step is to find an attorney who is trained in the collaborative law model. It is important that the attorney have this specific training because the process of resolving a divorce or custody issue by way of the collaborative process is vastly different from the process of resolving that same dispute using traditional litigation.
Enter into a Collaborative Law Agreement
The next step is for you and your spouse (and each of your attorneys) to enter into a formal collaborative law agreement, which then contractually takes your case out of litigation and sets it within the collaborative process. The agreement sets forth that each lawyer is retained solely to assist their client in reaching a fair and equitable agreement and that under no circumstance will that attorney represent the client if the matter goes to court. Binding commitments are also made regarding voluntary and full disclosure of all relevant information, and the parties' agreement to proceed respectfully and in good faith. The parties also agree to refrain from any threats of litigation during the collaborative problem-solving process.
Initiate the Assistance of a Neutral Professional
Sometimes it is extremely helpful to seek the assistance of a neutral professional into the collaborative process. There are neutral professionals available to assist the parties in each of the decisions a divorcing couple will need to make, be it a children or parenting issue or a financial issue regarding the division of assets and debts. It is important to note that only one expert is called upon on any given issue - in other words, one professional will assist both parties, instead of "dueling" experts (and dual expert fees) that often arise in litigation cases. This professional will be well trained and versed in the collaborative process, just as the attorneys are.
Make the Final Decisions
After reviewing and thoroughly evaluating the pros and cons of the various alternatives that are available to the parties on any given issue between them, the parties will ultimately make the decisions that will form the basis of their Final Decree of Divorce. These decisions will include decisions regarding what will happen to the marital home, whether or not support will be paid from one spouse to another, what the parenting plan and child support will look like, how the parties' assets and debts will be divided, and how attorneys fees and court costs will be paid. Remember, no decisions will be made without the full and complete involvement of both parties - and no one will be forced into a decision that is not right for them or their children.