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Collaborative in Divorce

Collaborative Law was created by Stu Webb, a Family attorney in Minneapolis. After years of engaging in the battles that can be fought when a couple divorces in court, he thought that by focusing everyone’s attention and intention on reaching a workable resolution rather than on seeking a “winning” advantage, some of that harm that can be occur in such battles could be avoided.

He borrowed a simple notion from long ago in both the American and the British legal systems. The involvement of an attorney “for settlement only” who would not go to court. This freed the attorneys to work solely on helping the soon-to-be-ex spouses to find ways to address the post-marital needs of both of them rather than try to pit their genuine needs against each other.

What resulted, he found, was that clients were better able to openly express their individual needs and concerns and work together to meet both of their needs. He also found that frequently they were better able to maintain a working relationship following the divorce. Particularly important when the couple had children.

Frequently, without the distractions that can come from the requirements of a court divorce and without the confusion that occurs when people don’t get the chance to speak directly, the process can move much more quickly and with less expense.

Since Stu began to enter into these “for settlement only” agreements, barely twenty years ago, the notion has spread rapidly. There are now thousands of trained Collaborative professionals throughout the US, Canada, Europe, Australia and South Africa helping thousands of couples to bring their marriages to an end respectfully and even productively.

When the discussion involves a family matter, especially the ending of a marriage, the financial circumstances and emotional involvement deserve particular attention. For Divorces, therefore, CP does more than simply recognize that they are there, it actively embraces the involvement in the process of other appropriate Collaboratively trained professionals:

  • Financial professionals who can, from a place of neutrality, help assemble financial information [rather than have each attorney do the same thing and then try to compare what they each get]
  • Counselors and other mental health professionals who can work directly with the clients [and with the professionals] to coach them into a better foundation for doing the work of working together.
  • Child Specialists who can, from a place of neutrality, work directly with children in order to inform the parents and the other professionals about the children’s needs.

Watch a video of an actual couple who allowed their use of the Collaborative Process to fashion their divorce agreement to be filmed:  (a new window will open)

A couple's actual process

You might also find these videos helpful, two of them include comments of clients who did their divorces using Collaborative Practice:

You can find more resources here.

While we can give you an overview of the process, you really should discuss it directly with the professionals you will be working with. A couple of thoughts about using our Search feature. You may think you should start looking for an attorney. And there would be nothing wrong with that. However, if you know there are tensions between you and your spouse, the first work you will need to do is on getting yourselves to a place where you can talk about things. So you might consider checking in with a Collaboratively trained mental health professional.