Collaborative Law
Click to zoom

At Norbache-Goff, PLLC. we will be glad to schedule a 30-minute phone consultation for you with one of our attorneys free of charge.

This consultation provides:
  • An introduction to you about the Collaborative Law process.
  • An opportunity to discuss the nature of your legal matter and determine if Collaborative Law is the right process for its settlement.
  • An appropriate time to discuss any concerns or questions you might have about Collaborative Law and your role in the process.
  • An opportunity to inquire about our fees.

What is Collaborative law?

When parties have a serious dispute which they have been unable to resolve through informal actions, the dispute often ends up in litigation. Long before the case is resolved at trial, when considering the financial and emotional costs involved in pursuing litigation to completion, many parties decide they don't really want their "Day in Court". They would much rather have the issue closed, and be allowed to get on with their lives.

Collaborative Law is a cooperative process for resolving differences between the parties. Though disputes are conventionally resolved in court as adversaries, the Collaborative Law approach allows the parties to define a solution that maximizes their control of events, and their satisfaction with the outcome. Collaborative Law allows the parties to arrive at a mutually acceptable, equitable solution, generally at lesser cost than a litigated case, and without a public trial.

Collaborative Law is a voluntary process, where the parties share their goals and information, and work toward a solution, which maximizes the satisfaction of all parties.

Each party is represented by an attorney trained in the practice of Collaborative Law. All parties, including the attorneys, are engaged in seeking the best possible outcome for the disputing parties.

Many areas of law are candidates for the practice of Collaborative Law, but it most commonly is applied in Family Law. The focus on Family Law will be reflected in the paragraphs which follow.

To schedule a free telephone consultation, please call us at 253-838-5444 during our regular office hours, Monday to Friday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. PST, or request a consultation appointment by e-mail.

Why consider Collaborative Law?

The goal of Collaborative Law is to assist the parties in this difficult and emotional time in their lives to find a resolution of their issues in a manner beneficial to all concerned while preserving the integrity and dignity of the individuals in keeping with the long-term best interests of everyone involved.

In marital dissolution cases and domestic partnership separations, couples are faced with legal issues that need to be resolved. These commonly include disposition of assets and welfare of the children. Families going through divorce or separation also endure a period of challenges and transitions. Stability and security are frequently in short supply, to the detriment of both the adults and the children.

As Collaborative Law practitioners, our goal is to aide the parties in reaching settlement options to the greatest benefit of all parties, and to minimize the negative social, emotional, and financial consequences of engaging in painful litigation for families confronting Family law issues.

The principal advantage for the parties in engaging in a Collaborative Law solution varies from person to person. Some find that avoiding the acrimony of adversarial litigation and preserving civility between the parties is the primary reward. This is frequently true when children are involved, and the parents will be interacting for many years to come. A side effect of sustaining civil interaction is frequently reduced stress before, during and after the collaboration, and greater stability for the children and parents during what is inevitably a difficult transition.

For other parties the greatest benefit is retaining control of their fate. In typical litigation, the disputants lose control of the actual conduct of the case to their attorneys, who lose control of the decisions in the case to a Judge. The adversarial nature of litigation, including the necessity of casting the opposing party in the worst light to gain some minor advantage in court, frequently leaves the parties so bitter that further communication is impossible. If children are involved, it is the children who suffer the greatest loss.

By seeking a cooperative solution through Collaborative Law, the parties retain control of the terms of any settlement reached. This is more likely to yield a solution appropriate to the parties' situation, and more aligned with their desires.

There is also a potential to significantly reduce the cost associated with reaching a solution using Collaborative Law, when compared to typical litigation. With the parties working in good faith toward common objectives, there will be far less wasted effort and unnecessary legal thrashing.

How Does Collaborative Law Work?

The first step in resolving a dispute through Collaborative Law is for the disputants to recognize that they share some common objectives. Common objectives may include avoiding the burdens associated with litigation such as cost and public exposure, preserving a civil relationship between the parties, or securing a child's welfare. Additional common objectives may be identified as the collaborative process is pursued.

Having identified at least one common objective, and a desire to avoid the adversarial aspects of litigation, the parties must each individually retain an attorney who participates in Collaborative Law. The parties and their attorneys will then sign a Collaborative Law Participation Agreement. The attorneys will work with the parties to identify possible outcomes, and to identify the consequences of the options discussed as part of the collaborative process. Each attorney represents the interests of their client, keeps their client aware of the consequences of any proposed agreement, and does so while in search of a cooperative solution.

Outside expertise can be retained by the parties in support of the collaboration when appropriate. This could include financial experts or actuaries, child therapists or counselors, or healthcare experts if there are any special needs to be addressed.

The parties may individually engage what personal support they require outside of the collaborative process. This may include therapists, counselors, or mental health experts, or even friends. Anyone engaged must respect the confidentiality and sensitivity of the collaboration, and should support a successful resolution of the dispute.

In the case of Collaborative Family Law, there is a pre-defined framework of general issues related to dissolution and child welfare that will guide the flow of the collaboration. This framework addresses those questions that must be answered to the courts satisfaction, relating to terms of dissolution and arranging for the future needs of any children involved. Additional issues specific to the parties needs may be raised by the parties or their counsel.

The parties, with their attorneys, will hold a series of meetings to discuss these topics, provide full and fair disclosure of the relevant information, and identify solutions acceptable to the parties. The collaborative attorneys are dedicated to forming a best case solution for the parties. One of the precepts of Collaborative Law is that the effort exerted to reach a common solution should be no less than the effort that would otherwise be expended in litigation.

As Collaborative Law is a voluntary process, the parties may exit the collaborative process at any time. However, the attorneys who have participated in the Collaborative Law process would not be able to participate in any further action on this dispute.

As Collaborative Law attorneys we address your needs, interests and goals. while striving to reach the solution that is for the highest good of all concerned.

How Do I Begin the Collaborative Law process?

First the parties must recognize a common objective to open the door to a collaborative solution. This first common objective may be as pragmatic as cost containment or as noble as providing the best for their children.

Second, the disputants must each engage a Collaborative attorney to participate in the dispute resolution process. Beyond training, the most important feature for a collaborative attorney is that they both agree if the matter is not settled cooperatively, they will withdraw from further representation. This is explicitly stated in the Collaborative Law Participation Agreement, which will be signed by all parties at or even before the first collaboration meeting.

Third, the parties must independently engage in some preparatory work. A preliminary meeting with your collaborative attorney is recommended to discuss the details of the process, and answer any questions you may have. At this time, your attorney may also outline the types of information that will be necessary to support the collaborative process, as part of the full and fair disclosure of relevant facts. Gathering accurate information prior to the first collaborative meeting will help to advance the process and contain costs.

Thereafter, the parties will hold a series of collaborative meetings with the support of their attorneys. The topics appropriate to their specific case will be discussed, and possible solutions proposed. Proposals may come from the parties or from their attorneys. All parties are acting in good faith to achieve the best possible outcome. The best possible outcome may not be the perfect outcome from either party's perspective, and will likely include compromises on every side. It should reflect the best possible outcome under the circumstances, considering the objectives of the parties.

What Is the Participation Agreement?

The participation agreement specifies the ground rules for conduct of Collaborative Law, and records the parties' agreement to comply with these guidelines.

With respect to family law, the Collaborative Law Participation Agreement states that all parties and their attorneys commit in good faith to do the following:

  • Cooperate by conducting themselves at all times in a respectful, civil and professional manner.
  • Cooperate by responding promptly to all reasonable requests for information from the other party.
  • Cooperate by fully disclosing all relevant financial information.
  • Cooperate by obtaining joint appraisals and/or other expert opinions before obtaining individual appraisals or expert opinions.
  • Cooperate by obtaining meaningful expert input (e.g., a child specialist) before requesting a custody study or the appointment of a guardian ad litem
  • Cooperate in good faith negotiation sessions, including 4-way sessions where appropriate, to reach fair compromises based on valid information.
  • Attorneys who have participated in the Collaborative Law process will withdraw from the case should the matter end up in litigation

University Place, WA 253-653-9000
Disclaimer: The information provided on this website is not legal advice. It is a general overview with regard to the subject matter covered and should not be relied upon for any specific situation. Transmission of this information is not intended to create, and receipt by you does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. For case specific legal advice, please contact our firm.
Copyright © NORBACHE-GOFF, PLLC. All right reserved