Central Vermont Collaborative Law Practice Group

  Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q.  What is Collaborative Law?

A.  Collaborative Law is a process in which each party retains a specially-trained lawyer to assist in resolving disputes without going to court.


Q.  How does Collaborative Law work?

A.  Through a series of meetings of the parties, their lawyers and neutral experts (the collaborative team), the parties share information, brainstorm possible options, explore and evaluate those options and build a settlement agreement.


Q.  Why does Collaborative Law work?

A.   By encouraging cooperative behavior, engaging in honest and open exchange of information and ideas and removing the threat of litigation, collaborative law creates an environment in which the parties, their lawyers and other neutral experts can work together to reach a satisfactory, and often creative, settlement agreement.


Q.  What is the difference between Collaborative Law and Mediation?

A.  Both processes are forms of alternate dispute resolution, aimed at resolving disputes outside of court by engaging interest-based negotiation.  The professionals facilitate healthy communication and problem-solving.   In Collaborative Law, the parties must each have a lawyer.  In Mediation, parties may choose whether or not to retain lawyers or work directly with the mediator.  In Collaborative Law, the parties and their lawyers agree that they will not seek court intervention and in the event of impasse, the parties must hire new lawyers. Everyone on the team – lawyers and parties alike – have a strong commitment to resolving the issues.  In Mediation, there is always the possibility of taking a dispute to court so the commitment to resolving the issues may not be as strong and there may be less likelihood of success.  In Collaborative Law, each lawyer continues to give advice to and advocate for his or her client.  In Mediation, the mediator remains neutral and does not give advice to either party.


Q.  Does Collaborative Law cost as much as litigation?

A.  Collaborative Law is typically less costly financially than litigation as there is no effort made to prepare for court hearings.  Collaborative Law also minimizes other “costs” such as reducing the negative impact on relationships with family members and friends, business and/or employment contacts, time off from work, etc.  At the end of the process, the parties are more likely able to remain amicable than at the end of litigation.


Q.  How long does the process take?

A.  The collaborative process usually takes between four to eight months.  Litigation may take years.  Once you and the other party have reached an agreement, the lawyers will prepare the necessary paperwork to file in Court for your review and signature.  The lawyers will submit the paperwork to the Court.  You will not have to attend any court hearings.


Q.  Is Collaborative Law right for me?

A.  If you want a process that is cooperative, avoids court, is less costly and is client-centered, you should consider this process.  You may wish to Take the Test to assess whether the process is best for you. 


Q.  How do I get the other party to agree to use the process?

A.  The collaborative lawyer with whom you consult will be able to give you written materials which you may share with the other party, including a list of collaborative lawyers in your region.   Or you may ask your lawyer to write an introductory letter directly to the other party or his or her lawyer.


Q.  What can I do to prepare myself for the Collaborative process?

A.  You may want to read about Collaborative Law online, for example by visiting the website for the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals or read The Collaborative Way to Divorce by Stuart G. Webb, Founder of Collaborative Law, and Ronald D. Ousky (Plume, 2007).


Q.  How do I get started?

A.  Contact a collaborative lawyer in your area to schedule an initial office consultation.  You may wish to ask the lawyer to send you reading materials in advance of your consultation.  Find a Collaborative Lawyer.