The most efficient way to approach divorce is with Collaborative Law

What is Collaborative Law?

By definition, Collaborative Law, “enables couples who have decided to separate or end their marriage to work with their lawyers and, on occasion, other family professionals in order to avoid the uncertain outcome of court and to achieve a settlement that best meets the specific needs of both parties and their children without the underlying threat of litigation.”

Arizona and California recently began to allow all attorneys to use the collaborative law model to resolve divorces. Collaborative law is a change of mindset from dividing your family to allowing your family to remain intact through a major family transition. Where everything filed in court is public record, collaborative law keeps your private life private. Before 2016, because only a few lawyers were trained, this process was not commonly used. Now, it is open to everyone and there are many variations of a collaborative law case.
  • Confidential meetings
  • Stay in control
  • Low cost compared to traditional divorce.
  • Access to a team of professionals when needed
  • Avoid third-party decisions.

Frequently Asked Questions

1What is Collaborative Law?
Collaborative Law (also called Collaborative Process or Collaborative Divorce) is a private, out of court method of resolving an Arizona Family Court case. Collaborative Law allows you and your spouse or your child’s other parent to resolve your dispute out of court without involving a judge.
2What do I agree to if I agree to participate in a Collaborative Law case?
You agree to the following:

  1. I will fully disclose all information in my case, whether the other side asks for it or not.
  2. I will keep the collaborative law proceedings confidential.
  3. Any information I learn in the collaborative law process will not be used in a later court case unless I discovered the information through some other process than the collaborative law process.
  4. I have an attorney I have retained for the collaborative process. If I abandon collaborative law, I know I cannot use my attorney’s services for later court proceedings in this case.
  5. I agree I wish to handle the process with dignity and respect for the other party.
3How do we know if we are using the Collaborative Law Process?
You will know when you have signed a collaborative commitment agreement. You will sign a form that clearly articulates the terms of your work with a lawyer in the collaborative law process.
4Do I have to have a lawyer to use the Collaborative Law process?
You do need a lawyer for the collaborative law process. However, there are a number of hybrid models that allow you to use the services of other professionals like divorce coaches, child specialists, and financial professionals.
5How can I get my spouse to use the Collaborative Law process?
This is a tough question. We’ll start by ruling out certain groups of people, because there are certain types of high-conflict personalities who simply are not going to logically consider the high cost of conflict against the benefits of collaborative law.

If the other side has engaged in physical abuse, that could limit the ability to utilize the collaborative law process. Likewise for a person who has a diagnosed personality disorder like narcissism or antisocial disorder. These people are going to either avoid the situation entirely or they are going to take some sort of pleasure from the conflict.

Now, ruling out extreme examples, what we suggest may not work in every case. You should tailor the suggested language below to meet your specific circumstances. You should ensure that before you have this conversation, you, your children and pets are safe with the other party. There are no guarantees that any version of what we suggest can be successful:

“I have talked to a lawyer / done some research. We have two children / a business / a dog we both love (it can be anything) and I want to make a decision that allows us to preserve our ability to continue to work together to raise the kids / address the business / schedule time with the dog. Do you have anything that you think we should try to work together on?” As to the cost, “The collaborative law process is typically cheaper than going to court. I want to save the money we have. I don’t really want to give all my money to lawyers. How do you feel about paying lawyers who have no motivation or investment in resolving our case?”

Allowing a person to answer these questions in an open-ended way obtains some level of buy-in. Give them some information. Allow them to do their own research and encourage them to find their own attorney – with the caveat that their attorney be a collaborative law attorney who is invested in resolving the case as expeditiously and effectively as possible.

Call Peaceful Family Law today to discuss your collaborative law case at 602-633-1004.
6What if I am the only one who wants a divorce?
In California or Arizona if you want a divorce, you will likely be granted a divorce. It’s just a matter of how long that process will take. If it’s by an agreement you’re more likely to get a quicker divorce.

Are you absolutely sure you want a divorce? Is the other person? Sometimes, if you want a divorce but the other person does not, there may be a reason. You may have certain legal protections as a result of staying together as a married couple, even if you separate. There may be religious reasons not to legally divorce. In any event, this can be fraught with a lot of potential for missteps.

We recommend talking to a lawyer, but we do not recommend talking to just any lawyer. If you want a divorce, your divorce could cost somewhere between $5,000 and $100,000, and all of that could boil down to one major factor: Who is your lawyer?

Your attorney can approach the other party with dignity and class, or with callousness and cruelty. We have seen at least three couples reconcile after a legal separation or divorce petition is filed. One client recently said, “we consider you a part of the team that helped us to reconcile our marriage.”

There is a precarious place where we make decisions that could help us personally but hurt us legally – and we make decisions that could hurt personally but help us legally. The difference can have a lifetime impact on business, family, and children. What are your legal interests? Avoiding certain creditors, staying financially viable, keeping health insurance or severing yourself from your spouse’s irresponsible behavior could be among them. What are your personal interests? For starters: Relationships, relationships, relationships! These include the relationship you have with your children, your spouse, your families and friends and extended social groups.

Who you choose as your lawyer can carefully walk you through the steps to deciding whether you want to take the path of divorce or just separation, and why one may be better than the other. It is possible to treat the other person with dignity and respect while protecting your legal interests. It is even possible to protect your legal interests while not completely wrecking your personal interests. The trick is often in the conduct you display – and in the conduct of your lawyer. If you want a lawyer who will advocate for you, representing your interests in every way in your divorce or legal separation, or contact us today.
7How long will my case take?
We wish we could tell you how long your case will take. How long your case will take depends on many items but primarily you and the person you have a dispute with. We view our client relationships as a team relationship. You tell us where you want to go and we’ll tell you if it’s possible to get there and how to accomplish your goals.

How long will your case take? We have some questions for you:

  • Do you have children? Do you have an agreement about those children – who should live with them, care for them, how they should be raised?
  • Do you have assets? Debts? Do you have a solid plan for allocating those assets and debts?
  • Is there a business involved? Can you work together on the business, or do you need a third party to step in? For small businesses, there is often a need for a neutral decision-maker to ensure cooperation for the business’s success.
  • Are you choosing to go to court? If yes, you have probably just extended the life of your case for at least a few months.
  • Do you each choose lawyers who are collaborative law attorneys? If so, you have just reduced the conflict of your case and increased the likelihood that your case can be a collaborative law case, which will shorten the case usually.
  • Did you sign a collaborative law commitment agreement? If you signed this, you took control over how long your case can last.
  • Did you and the other person agree that you will use mediation? If so, you have increased the chances for early resolution.
  • Did you choose a lawyer who will listen to your needs, wishes and honor what you requested?

If you and the person you’re in a dispute with each hire an attorney and you each tell your attorney, “I want to stay out of court. I want to stay in control of my relationships. I do not want a judge to decide my case. I want collaborative law because it will save me time, money, and anguish,” then you have charted your course. You have likely shortened how long your case will take to resolve. Arizona has a 60 day waiting period for divorces. When both people and their lawyers are taking the “high road” mindset, your case could be done in at least 60 days.
8How much will my court case cost?
How much your legal case will cost depends on a lot of factors. When a client asks how much their case will cost, here are the questions we have to answer to get a better sense of how to evaluate the case:

  • Did you and the other party each choose a lawyer whose reputation is to fight? If so, a lawyer may tell you that your legal fees just tripled. Or at least doubled. That money is coming from somewhere. Likely, it’s coming out of the assets you share with the other party!
  • Did you and the other party each choose a collaborative lawyer? If your lawyer is the one telling you whether your case will be right for collaborative law, and the other side is interested in collaborative law, maybe you’re not doing enough independent thinking about how much this will cost you.
  • When you decide to hire a lawyer, you could do some research about that lawyer. This is the person who could decide whether your children wind up hating you, or whether your in-laws ever speak to you again. This the person who you are asking to stand in your shoes and take action for you. What do others say about them? What do others NOT say about them?
  • Does your attorney tell you that the case isn’t good for collaborative law? If they are a trained collaborative lawyer, that’s when your ears should perk up. Maybe there is significant domestic violence that means your case can’t succeed in collaborative law. If your lawyer isn’t a trained collaborative lawyer, can you comfortably ask this: how does your lawyer know anything about collaborative law?
  • Does your lawyer tell you that your case isn’t ready for mediation yet? Your attorney may not think a case is ready for mediation if there isn’t enough information – or if there isn’t enough money paid to that lawyer yet. It’s up to you to decide whether you are at peace with the amount of information given, with the settlement terms offered. When a client wants to settle a case and I think we don’t have the information we need, I have a way that I protect both my client and myself. At the end of it all – it’s the client’s decision, not mine!
  • Is the other party diagnosed with a serious illness or disorder that can affect their thinking? Or, if they were to see a psychiatrist, would they be diagnosed with a serious disorder or illness? That person may not be able to see past their immediate desire for gratification through conflict. In those cases, there are very few options but to use the court system, hope you have a judge who pays close attention to your case and makes sound, reasoned rulings. In cases where the other party is mentally ill or disordered, the expense of court is sometimes unavoidable.

If you have a lawyer who takes steps that create conflict or confusion in a case (breaking court rules consistently, filing emergency motions, or talking down to the other party or their lawyer in emails and phone calls) you may have hired a person who causes problems instead of solutions. Those problems cost you money. The solutions save you money.
9How to get a parenting time order?
How to get a parenting time order is a simple question with more complicated answers. To change a child custody order, you can take a few paths.

First, get the other party to agree. How? If you can get them to agree to talk to a mediator or participate in collaborative law, you will more likely than not come to a conclusion you can live with. In collaborative law, we usually ask the clients to talk to a child specialist. That child specialist is totally neutral and will present the parents with the child’s perspective. Hearing what your child will most benefit from, from your child’s perspective, can be very eye-opening for a lot of parents.

It can be no surprise that children most fear and most avoid conflict between their parents. This disrupts their security and stability.

Second, if you can’t get the other person to talk to a mediator, or you are unwilling to try, file a motion for a court order. A court order sounds really simple, but it will require the judge to have a trial and hear and read evidence. The judge, after reviewing all evidence, will make a decision.

To coordinate the custody of a child, it is always cheaper and easier to reach agreements. Mutual agreements concerning child custody are also better for your kids.

Helpful Resources