Collaborative divorce is an approach to problem resolution in the family law setting. In New Hampshire, parents are often required to discuss and agree on a “parenting plan” which encourages collaborative resolution. It is an alternative dispute resolution technique for resolving conflicts and reaching agreements using cooperation rather than adversarial techniques and litigation. It recognizes the value of an attorney, but avoids the involvement of the Court. The idea is that the parties will fully cooperate in the process. The result of the process is that the divorcing parties develop skills through the collaborative process that will assist them in addressing not only the issues common to divorce but also the inevitable issues that all parents confront as their children grow.

The Collaborative process incorporates three principles: A promise not to go to court to resolve issues; an honest and open exchange of information and a desire to achieve a resolution that puts the priorities of the parties and their children first. Mutual respect and mutual effort in resolving issues to achieve both parties’ goals are at the heart of the collaborative process. Through this process, the parties together control the outcome, not the court. This leads to a meaningful result that is the product of contemplation and dialogue and not the artificial result that often occurs when the marriage is condensed to a few hours presentation in front of a judge.

The collaborative process begins with the parties and their counsel signing a contract that obligates all to reach a resolution without court involvement. The contract includes an express provision that bars court involvement in decision making and requires the attorneys to withdraw and the parties to retain new counsel if the collaborative process breaks down. As a result, all involved, including counsel, have a vested interest in reaching a resolution using the collaborative process. This contract is a key tool in achieving the goal of developing effective relationships, solving problems jointly, and preventing court battles that harm rather than help heal.

At Parnell, Michels & McKay we encourage families going through the divorce process to consider a collaborative approach first. If you are interested in learning more about the collaborative process and how it may help you, please contact us to learn more.