Our Mission Statement:
To promote the respectful resolution of legal disputes employing a multidisciplinary professional approach, encouraging parties to reach agreements in a civil and creative manner; and educating the public and the professional community about the process and value of Collaborative Practice.
Birmingham Collaborative Alliance provides a private, voluntary, no-court option for resolving divorce and other family-related disputes, utilized by parties who prefer to avoid the agony and stress of litigation. The collaborative process provides a method for respectful and open discussion of issues designed to generate creative solutions and compromise in the interests of all concerned. Everyone involved – both spouses and their attorneys – pledge not to litigate, but to work together to settle the case by agreement. The collaborative process is client-centered, allowing the parties to the dispute to have more control over the process by engaging the services of specially trained financial neutrals, mental health coaches and child specialists to work with them and their attorneys in coming to resolution.
Divorce is often a person’s first encounter with the judicial system and it can be confusing and scary — an added stress they feel ill-equipped to handle at such an emotional time in their lives. Collaborative professionals recognize the need to help their clients move through the divorce process as efficiently and respectfully as possible. This is particularly beneficial to families with children who understand that divorce will not mark the end of their need to co-parent.
There is a growing demand for collaborative practice in Alabama, and BCA members have already begun accepting collaborative cases and facilitating collaborative divorce agreements. Call one of us today.
COLLABORATIVE PRACTICE FAQs
What is Collaborative Practice?
Collaborative Practice is an out of court process designed to resolve disputes in a fair, transparent and respectful manner that is acceptable to both parties. Each party employs a lawyer and a “coach,” who are there to assist them in reaching resolution. If needed, other professionals who have been trained in the collaborative process can be brought in to assist the parties in resolving their conflict. These could be accountants, financial planners and other mental health care professionals, who with the parties agree to work in good faith to develop and share all information needed to reach a mutually informed and acceptable settlement. These people make up the collaborative “team.”
What makes collaborative practice unique is that the parties and team members enter into an agreement called the Participation Agreement which provides that the dispute will not be handled through litigation and includes promises that there will not be threats of going to court. In the event either party files something with the court, all members of the team are disqualified from working with the parties. The parties then bear the expense of having to start over in court with new lawyers. This encourages all involved to see the process through to the end.
What kind of situations lend themselves to Collaborative Practice?
Collaborative Practice works best in situations where:
- Parties do not want to go to court.
- Parties can work together in good faith.
- Parties seek confidentiality regarding their conflicts and finances.
- Parties wish to have continuing relationships with each other.
- Neither party is incapacitated.
How does Collaborative Practice work?
Collaborative Practice is deliberately designed to be non-adversarial. The parties are actively in charge of negotiating and the process moves at a pace dictated by the needs of the parties. Throughout the process, the lawyers are there as advisors on legal issues. The coaches, who are typically licensed mental health professionals, assist the parties to negotiate respectfully, with a clear mind, and to hear and understand the other party’s interests. When professionals are needed for financial or other assessments, the parties jointly engage the necessary professional to serve as an impartial neutral expert. The parties agree to full and transparent disclosure of any information needed to help resolve the dispute. Once a resolution has been reached, the lawyers assist the parties in filing the paperwork for a court to enter any orders that may be needed for the settlement to be final.
The lawyers and other professionals involved in Collaborative Practice undergo extensive training outside of their normal professional training requirements. Each party’s lawyer, and his or her coach, represents that party in a respectful, advisory, non-adversarial manner. The other professionals on the team work as neutral experts to provide unbiased service to the parties. Meetings take place with the clients and various members of the team working together. These meetings may include the parties and any combination of team members needed for the work at hand. For example, the parties may work with coaches to develop effective communication techniques and to manage intense emotions that come with conflicts; or, they may meet with a neutral financial professional to gather and analyze information needed for the negotiations. Meetings follow a set agenda planned by the professionals and the parties in advance of each meeting. The goals of the meetings are a full exchange of information and a continuing effort to assist the parties to shape a result that is right for them.
How is information gathered in Collaborative Practice?
The parties agree to share all necessary information and records voluntarily, transparently and completely. There are no formal discovery requests like those used in litigation. The parties themselves jointly engage the professionals needed to gather information needed to resolve the dispute.
How are difficult emotional situations handled?
In Collaborative Practice, the team works to create a focus on positive communication. The team helps the parties present their interests in a positive manner and encourages each party to hear the other party in a similar way. In this context, meetings where everyone hears the same thing at the same time promote transparency and help keep the process focused upon workable solutions. However, the process is flexible to meet the needs of the parties and nobody will be forced to remain in a meeting that could be emotionally harmful. The needs of the parties are the primary focus of Collaborative Practice.
How are issues regarding children in family law disputes handled?
Collaborative Practice puts emphasis on the needs of children involved in family conflicts. Often, in addition to the coaches, another mental health professional called a “child specialist” will join the team to be the voice of the children. Coaches and child specialists assist the parents in developing effective communication and parenting agreements, and in transitioning through the changes a divorce or custody change cause for a family.
What happens if the parties cannot reach a settlement?
If all avenues to reach resolution have been exhausted and the parties no longer wish to pursue the matter collaboratively, the attorneys will withdraw and the parties will need to chart a new course to try to resolve their differences.
Do I really need a coach? What if I already have a mental health professional with whom I am working?
Yes, you really need a collaboratively trained coach. Collaborative attorneys are wonderfully sympathetic people, but mental health professionals have the unique skills to help parties navigate the minefield of conflict. They will help you work out of the most rational part of your brain. That is not easy to do when you are in “fight or flight” mode as a result of the stress your conflict is creating. Collaborative coaches are specially trained to enable you to bring the best “you” there is to the negotiating table. They add real value to the process, and your lawyer will advise you to employ such a professional.
How much is this going to cost me?
Research has shown that collaborative cases generally cost significantly less than litigated cases. That said – every dispute is different. In collaborative cases, the parties are, to a large degree, going to determine how expensive resolution is. You can create efficiencies by doing the homework your team gives you promptly, and by showing up for meetings fully prepared to work through the issues that are on your agenda. You will be seeing much of the work done by your professionals first hand, and will be able to keep a better handle on what things are costing than you would in a litigated case. Finally, try to keep the issue of cost in perspective. The decisions you are making are important. It is worth the investment in high quality collaborative professionals to help you create a resolution that will last and be effective.
How do I find out more information or locate a professional trained in Collaborative Practice to help me resolve a dispute?
The first step is that you and the other party must engage collaboratively trained attorneys to represent you both before filing any action in court. You can learn more about Collaborative Practice through www.collaborativepractice.com. You can find a list of local collaborative professionals on this website under the “Find a Collaborative Professional” tab on this website.