Whether or not you are using the collaborative process, pretty much all divorce cases begin the same way. You go around to different attorneys, schedule consultations so the attorney can learn more about your circumstances and you can learn about the attorney and his or her practice, and then sign a contract to retain the attorney for his or her services. When you and your spouse have learned about the various approaches to divorce, you will likely come to the conclusion that the collaborative process is right for you. So what then?
The first step is that you, your attorney, your spouse, and his or her attorney will negotiate and sign a Collaborative Law Participation Agreement (the “Participation Agreement”). In the Participation Agreement, everyone commits himself and herself to:
- Identify the goals and interests of each client;
- Empower the clients to control the process and make decisions;
- Fully disclose relevant information;
- Maintain all meetings, discussions, and disclosures as confidential;
- Refrain from threatening to litigate; and
- Develop settlement options.
Additionally, Participation Agreements will often outline the purpose and specific duties of neutral financial and mental health professionals, such as communication facilitation, financial and tax advice, valuation, cash flow analysis, resolution of parenting issues, and assistance with other issues that require specialized or expert advice or recommendations.
Procedural issues, such as tentative schedules for meetings, division of financial responsibility of the process, and an explanation of how a final judgment will be entered once a settlement is executed, may also be part of the Participation Agreement.
No matter the path that brought you to the Collaborative Law process, the path forward becomes more clearly defined with the Collaborative Law Participation Agreement.
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Tampa Bay Collaborative Divorce Attorney Adam B. Cordover is managing shareholder of The Law Firm of Adam B. Cordover, P.A., and a member of the Collaborative Divorce Institute of Tampa Bay.