Collaborative Law

The area of Collaborative Law presents several viable options that allow you to avoid the long, drawn out process of going to court for a traditional divorce. The attorneys at the Wendy Satin Law are conveniently located in Rockville MD (within Montgomery County) and are certified in the area of collaborative law.

Wendy Satin is trained and experienced in Collaborative Divorce and is a members of CDRP (Collaborative Divorce Resolution Professionals) and the IACP (International Academy of Collaborative Professionals). Collaborative Divorce is a means of resolving divorce, custody, and financial issues as an out-of-court alternative to litigation and traditional mediation. There are three basic principles underlying the Collaborative Divorce practice model of dispute resolution:

(1) A pledge by the spouses that they will not go to court to resolve their dispute – if contested litigation is pursued, both collaborative lawyers must withdraw from representating a spouse;

(2) Open communication and an honest exchange of information and expression of needs and expectation by both spouses which facilitates problem solving directed toward solutions;

(3) A resolution that considers the significant priorities of both spouses and their children.

Collaborative divorce is a process in which a divorcing couple, along with trained professionals, work together to resolve divorce-related issues in a non-adversarial problem solving process. Each divorcing spouse hires her or his separate attorney who is trained in the Collaborative resolution strategies. There are various models or approaches in Collaborative law. The most basic form of Collaborative Law is the approach where each spouse has an attorney and the four of them attempt to resolve the issues through various four-way conferences. In this model any other professionals, such as accountants and mental health providers, are involved in the limited role as an expert or consultant. In the “lawyer-only” approach there may also be a “referral” aspect where an attorney will refer her client to additional professionals such as a financial consultant or accountant or mental health professionals to assist that client as necessary at any stage of the process. In both the basic Collaborative Law and the Collaborative Law Referral model, the team is the two lawyers and two clients.

The spouses and their attorneys sign a written agreement, usually called a “Participation Agreement,” that specifies the Collaborative ground rules. Some aspects of the Collaborative process that ordinarily will be covered in a Participation Agreement include agreements: to commit to participate in good faith toward settlement without resorting to litigation while pursuing a Collaborative resolution; to make full, complete, and accurate voluntary disclosure of all pertinent personal and financial information necessary to reach a fair settlement; to avoid inappropriate communications with the children concerning the divorce; identifying the legal issues to be resolved (e.g., parenting time with the children, child support, alimony/spousal support, property division, allocation of debts, etc.); recognition that some “temporary issues” such as financial support, parenting time and other matters may require more immediate attention and have to be resolved prior to permanent resolution of the issues; procedure for obtaining any necessary neutral experts such as an accountant or child psychologist; circumstances that may require both attorneys to withdraw from the process; confidentiality of the Collaborative settlement proposals; and obligates the attorneys to withdraw from representing their respective clients if the Collaborative process does not result in settlement. If the Collaborative process terminates without full resolution, then each spouse would have to retain new counsel for representation in any contested litigation. In mediation, there is a neutral third-party who attempts to facilitate the couple’s settlement; in Collaborative practice the “four-way” meetings between the husband, wife, their respective attorneys, and other involved professionals take place without a moderating mediator.

Ideally, Collaborative divorce is pursued from the outset prior to either spouse initiating divorce proceedings in court. However, sometimes a divorce action has already been commenced before the parties are even aware of the Collaborative option or before they have jointly agreed to pursue a Collaborative resolution. As Collaborative divorce becomes more prevalent courts will become more supportive of the process and will adapt and adjust court dockets accordingly. For example, upon written request of divorcing parties the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, Maryland, will usually “stay” (i.e., put on hold or suspend) pending divorce proceedings for a reasonable period of time to allow the parties to try to resolve the disputed issues through the Collaborative process.

Wendy Satin Law

5910 Connecticut Avenue
Chevy Chase, Maryland 20815-9998

Phone: 301.762.1000

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