Once you decide you want to use the Collaborative Law process instead of litigation or mediation, you're probably ready to get started. So, what should you expect as you get started?
Different attorneys may do things slightly differently, but here are some steps that are fairly common.
1. Make sure you understand how the process works. You and your attorney should have a good discussion and go over the process thoroughly. It's not like anything you would see on TV. You should learn what to expect at the first meeting -- it's usually handled about the same from case to case. You can also talk about how to prepare for the meeting.
2. Have a discussion with your attorney about why you want to use Collaborative Law. Some of the common reasons are because of the privacy, getting to control the process, getting to decide the terms of the final agreement, being able to create non-traditional solutions, focusing on needs and interests rather than arbitrary guidelines, being able to maintain important family relationships or using a less stressful process. It helps for the attorney to understand your motivation and to know what's really important to you, so they can help you achieve your goals.
3. Review documents. There will be a Participation Agreement that is fundamental to the process. It is written in moderate legalese, so it will take some interpretation, but it is very important that you understand it. In part, it explains again how the process works. You might also review the Roadmap to Resolution, which is an outline of the steps in the Collaborative process. You will probably also go over the Expectations of Conduct. That's a reminder on how to behave during the Collaborative process.
4. Outline your goals. One of the best advantages of Collaborative Law is that we are always working to achieve your goals and meet your needs post-divorce. We need you to carefully explain what's important to you.
5. Study your calendar so we can schedule the first meetings. We want to schedule the first joint meeting as soon as possible, and then 2or 3 more joint meetings, along with separate meetings with the therapist (if there are children's issues) and the financial neutral. It helps to schedule the meetings early so we can keep progressing.
These are the basic steps, but talk with your attorney about what he or she wants you to do.
Some Next Steps: Gather financial records and start working on a budget, if you're in a hurry. The financial neutral will tell you what's needed and help you organize it.