The Collaborative Approach Model

The Collaborative Model uses an interest based negotiation approach, rather than an adversarial approach, to resolve conflict.  Collaborative practice is based on the premise that the family as a whole is in transition.  That whole must now be divided into separate homes and each of the homes must strive to be whole individually.  Thus, a collaborative divorce encourages each party to consider his or her own needs as they relate to the family, undergoing one of its most difficult life transitions. In a collaborative case, attorneys work with the parties to help them identify the needs that created a particular position and to re-focus on those needs for purposes of discussion and negotiation. This mindset is the foundation of “interest-based negotiation,” and it is the core of the Collaborative Model. 

When a party focuses on his or her needs, that party can reconnect to the reasons he or she formulated a certain position and let go of the attachment to that particular outcome. Each party is then free to take a step back and reexamine the issues. This allows the parties to explore the issues more freely and find out whether there is any point of common ground. When not attached to particular outcomes, each party is able to hear and consider what needs are important to the other, to incorporate his or her own needs into the discussion, and to explore a variety of different options.


The Collaborative Law Divorce Team


"I learned from that meeting that the Collaborative team was going to make sure that my voice was heard during our meetings - just as they were going to make sure I was aware of my husband's interests. I began to actually look forward to our meetings in a strange way, because I felt stronger and more in control of my life after each one." -Collaborative Law Client


One of the important features of Collaborative Divorce in Colorado is the Collaborative Law team. All cases start with each party having as his or her attorney who has been trained in the Collaborative model of dispute resolution. Then, neutral experts who are also trained in the Collaborative process are added to help with specific areas of the decision-making and settlement process.


The concept of having neutral professionals provide the divorcing couple with unbiased information necessary to resolve their case is unique to Collaborative Divorce. In litigation cases, husband and wife may hire competing experts to support their respective positions at trial, causing further damage to the parties' post-divorce relationship and economic well-being. Because they are hired by both parties to provide information (rather than to support one person's position), clients engaged in the Collaborative Divorce process find the experts' opinions to be more credible and reliable than they would be if they were expected to support one side or the other.


Clients often express concern that they will spend too much money if so many professionals are involved in their case. In fact, the neutral team members usually save them money because the least expensive, most competent person in a given field is doing what he or she does best. Clients are not counting on their lawyers for financial services or process facilitation. In addition, the couple's resources are used on one source of information rather than paying two experts to fight in court.


Most Collaborative Law teams include:


Neutral collaborative coach


The collaborative coach perform several roles on the Collaborative team. The coach acts as process facilitators to assure that meetings go smoothly and that the group is making progress toward completing the case; the coach is a consultant helping clients develop and focus on what interests they would like to have satisfied as they move through their Collaborative divorce; the coach often also serves as a negotiation facilitator who help clients reach agreements on child-related or other specific issues. The neutral coache, generally a professional trained in communication, mediation, family dynamics and frequently is a mental health professional, can help parents create a parenting plan for making decisions and spending time with their children after the divorce is completed.


Neutral coaches do not perform therapy for either client or the couple. Instead, a coach helps the parties and the remainder of the team work at their optimal level. Divorce is almost always a difficult and emotionally challenging experience. The parties' feelings range from anger to sadness to frustration to depression to confusion - to name just a few. Having a coach on the team to help the parties deal with those feelings allows everyone to attend to the business decisions that are required to finish a case.

A coach serves as a team member and is engaged at the beginning of a Collaborative case and generally attends all joint meetings. The coach often meets with the husband and wife, individually and/or together, at various times during the process between joint meetings to work toward resolution of specific issues or to intervene if communication becomes difficult.


Neutral financial professionals


Having a neutral financial expert as part of the Collaborative team benefits both parties in several ways. Typically, the financial professional helps the parties analyze historical spending and predict individual household expenses after divorce. The financial professional gathers and verifies information about marital community property and any separate property that might exist. A divorcing spouse who has little experience with managing money can look to the financial neutral for education about his or her finances and how the financial future might look, given specific settlement options. If there are complicated tracing or valuation issues, the neutral financial team member may perform the necessary calculations or oversee getting the required information from a third party.


A financial professional can help the parties integrate a plan for child and/or spousal support, tax planning, and asset and debt division. Learn more about the role of the neutral financial professional in Collaborative Law cases here.



Other experts like the ones listed below can be brought into a case to provide specialized information.


Child specialist


When there are minor children, a neutral child specialist may be asked to help parents learn and implement co-parenting skills; to perform or oversee evaluations and make recommendations about what arrangements would be in a child's best interests; and to help parents ease the children's transition from one household to two.




If there is a need for information about the value of real property, businesses or specific items of personal property, neutral appraisers can be hired to give opinions of value.




If the team's financial professional feels his or her neutrality might be compromised by performing needed services, an accountant may be engaged to trace separate property issues or analyze the books of a business. CPAs may consult with a team about tax matters or long-term planning.




Therapists are sometimes hired to work with children or one or both of the parties if there are specific needs to be addressed.


Experts in specific fields


Family law cases sometimes include issues involving other areas of law. Real estate experts, estate and probate lawyers, and insurance professionals, for example, can provide critical information to divorcing couples. The beauty of the system is that clients get customized information specific to their case and nothing more.