Collaborative Practice FAQs

  • How do I get started on a Collaborative Divorce? You will need the help of professionals such as attorneys, mediators or mental health professionals who are trained in Collaborative Practice. The best way to find these trained professionals in Michigan is to click here for a list of all practitioners of Collaborative Practice in Michigan.
  • Are there other sources I can use to better understand Collaborative Law? Yes. Use the "Resources" menu above to access information which should assist you in learning more.
  • Is a Collaborative Divorce less expensive than a traditional Divorce? A Collaborative Divorce may be less expensive but not necessarily. The total cost of a Collaborative Divorce depends on a number of factors. These factors include the difficulty and number of issues to be resolved, your attorney’s hourly rate, the costs of getting the necessary data or information, and amount of time your attorney and other professionals need to spend on the file. Attorneys’ rates vary. In addition, there may well be different rates for other attorneys or legal assistants who work on your file in addition to the lead attorney. It is reasonable to expect a clear explanation of the attorney’s billing policies. Further, it is reasonable to expect the billing policies to be confirmed in writing.

    The costs can include court costs (e.g. filing fees or judgment fees) or office costs (e.g. copying, long distance telephone calls, postage, etc.).

    The cost of other helping professionals on your team will also affect your total expenses. These could include your divorce coach, a child specialist, or your neutral financial specialist. In addition, there may be appraisals, actuarial analysis, or other experts to help analyze the case.

    Most attorneys and professionals will charge you for the time spent in conference, preparation for conferences, telephone calls, and document production. While there are many factors which affect the total cost, far and away the biggest factor is how quickly agreement is reached.

    Of course, you would have attorney fees, appraisal expenses, court costs, etc., in a traditional (adversarial) divorce as well. No one can predict those costs either. In analyzing the costs of various options, don’t overlook the emotional cost of a protracted battle or the frequent fall-out of the adversarial process: continuing, on-going conflict in the future.

  • How do I find a Collaborative attorney for my spouse? You can either ask for recommendations from the Collaborative lawyer with whom you are working, or direct your spouse to the website of the Collaborative Practice Institute of Michigan at www.CollaborativePracticeMI.com.
  • Can Collaborative Law be used after a divorce has been filed? Generally, “yes.” However, practitioners may approach this issue in a different manner. Most will ask that the divorce be dismissed so that the Collaborative Process can proceed without the inherent coercion of and on-going scheduling pressures imposed by the court. Alternatively they may seek a stay from the court, taking the case off the court’s docket until an agreement has been reached or the Collaborative Process terminated. Traditionally and ideally, Collaborative Practice takes place prior to the filing for divorce. A complaint for divorce would be filed only after there is a written resolution of all the divorce issues.

    On the other hand, some practitioners may try to work out a means to Collaboratively resolve differences without dismissing the divorce action.

    If you find yourself in a traditional divorce and you are interested in exploring the possibility of that divorce becoming a Collaborative Divorce, you should not hesitate to contact a Collaborative Divorce professional in your area.

  • Can Mediation be used as part of the Collaborative Process? Yes. In mediation, an impartial third party (the mediator) facilitates the negotiations, becomes the record keeper and generally manages the process toward agreement, allowing the lawyers to focus more on advising and assisting their clients. Mediation can be used as part of the Collaborative Process, usually with both Collaborative attorneys present with the clients in the mediation session. In circumstances where the situation is quite complicated or highly emotional a mediator can be an important impartial facilitator for these team meetings.

    However, it may not be necessary to engage the assistance of a mediator when the spouses are able to resolve issues with the help of their Collaborative attorneys, mental health professionals, and financial specialist.

  • How does Collaborative Practice affect the traditional attorney-client relationship? Collaborative Practice changes some aspects of the traditional attorney-client relationship. Your attorney is your advocate and advisor. Per the Collaborative Practice Agreement, your attorney focuses primarily on being your “Counselor at Law.” Rather than preparing for litigation, your attorney will be assisting in developing the terms of a settlement that both spouses will deem fair and effective. The goal is not to out-litigate the other side, but rather to reach a fair settlement of the case. Your attorney will sign an agreement that, in order to promote settlement, there will be civility, honesty, and full disclosure of assets. Litigation maneuvering is not a part of Collaborative Practice.

    However, this does not mean that everything you disclose to your attorney necessarily is disclosed to the other side. There will be discussions that you and your attorney have, outside the presence of the other side, that are confidential. Nonetheless, the philosophy of Collaborative Practice is to raise issues, disclose interests/aims, and work toward settlement. This is much different than the litigation model which is to frame issues for one side’s advantage, withhold information, and try to get an upper hand in the litigation process.

    In addition, the disqualification provision of the Participation Agreement provides that, if either party decides to resort to adversarial litigation, all of the Collaborative Professionals must resign. Obviously this is a different type of attorney-client relationship. However, experience has shown that this provision is important in keeping the process on track and motivated. It also allows everyone to put their full energies into crafting an agreement without looking over their shoulder for trial implications or maneuvers.

  • Are there any types of divorce cases not appropriate for Collaborative Practice? Actually, there are some types of cases for which there is no good approach. If one or both of the parties have significant mental disabilities, severe personality disorders, or are prone to violence, they are not ideal candidates for the Collaborative Process. On the other hand, these types of cases are not served any better, and may be made worse, by trying to use more traditional litigation or mediation process.

    If one of the parties is operating under a disadvantage, the mediation model may result in an unfair result. On the other hand, the same can be true of the litigation model which can end up being extremely expensive and time consuming. Therefore, while some types of cases are not ideal for the Collaborative Process, the Collaborative Process may still be the best alternative because additional help is available which allows the spouses to find a more effective solution. Care in structuring such a case and getting the professional help needed is key.

  • How can a reluctant spouse be encouraged to consider Collaborative Divorce? For the process to be effective, both parties must welcome the advantages of the Collaborative Process and want to use it to resolve their divorce issues. Encourage your spouse to visit this website. Most spouses seem reluctant for the simple fact that he or she has never heard of the Collaborative Process. Unfortunately, many divorce attorneys do not discuss with their clients the various options of alternative dispute resolution that are available in Michigan. Unless individuals do their own research, they are not well informed. Encourage your spouse to learn more. Both of you should be doing your research. Another great website for more information on this practice is the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (www.CollaborativePractice.com). Once your spouse has gathered his or her own information, any hesitation toward a Collaborative Divorce should be diminished. A divorce is a life-changing event. Cutting corners in how you meet its challenges may be the most expensive thing you can do.[i]

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    [i] Collaborative Divorce: The Revolutionary New Way to Restructure Your Family, Resolve Legal Issues, and Move on with Your Life, Pauline Tesler, M.A., J.D., & Peggy Thompson, Ph.D.