“You don’t resolve disputes by fighting. You resolve disputes by sitting down together and discussing solutions.”
– Rodney Johnson
Collaborative law is for couples who each want their own attorney present during the divorce settlement meetings. Both the couple and their lawyers sign an agreement that prohibits the attorneys from taking the case to court. This helps the couple focus solely on effectively resolving the issues without resorting to litigation.
Once all of the facts and issues have been explored, the attorneys assist the couple in reaching an agreeable resolution of those issues.
Collaborative law requires cooperation, and attorneys need specific collaborative divorce law training. As a innovator in the collaborative law process, Attorney Rodney N. Johnson has practiced collaborative law in Marin County since 1995.
How does the collaborative law process work?
There’s a series of four-way meetings with the couple and the two lawyers. Both individuals are encouraged to express their fears, interests and concerns. The steps and process are the same in collaborative law as in the mediation process.
The role of the two attorneys is to advise and advocate for their clients; additionally, the attorneys work cooperatively to find workable solutions.
Once an agreement is reached, the attorneys prepare a Marital Settlement Agreement, which contains all of the negotiated terms and conditions. After both parties sign the agreement, the attorneys file it with the court. The couple never sets foot in the courthouse.
There are some collaborative attorneys who insist on a collaborative team approach. This team consists of two attorneys, one or two therapists/coaches, a financial specialist, and a child specialist.
It has been Rodney’s experience that the team approach is very cumbersome and unnecessarily expensive. If either party wishes to consult with a therapist, child specialist, or financial specialist, they are encouraged to do so outside of the collaborative meetings. Rodney can make those referrals from his network of trusted professionals.
What if the process breaks down?
The couple can always withdraw from the collaborative process, but they cannot take their collaborative lawyers with them to court. Instead, they have to hire litigation counsel. An important element of the success of the collaborative process is that the collaborative lawyers cannot later be litigation lawyers. This goes a long way toward ensuring that the lawyers are committed to negotiating a settlement.
To learn more about Rodney N. Johnson’s collaborative approach to dispute resolution, please read the interview written by Keith Thompson and published in the “Pacific Sun” on August 4, 2004.
If you and your spouse/partner would like to discuss your situation, Rodney N. Johnson offers an in-person, free one-half hour consultation. When it is appropriate, he can discuss a flat fee.