In this process, each person involved has their own specially trained lawyer. Both lawyers commit to resolving all matters between the people involved without fighting in court. Sometimes in this process, the lawyers might suggest the inclusion of other collaborative team members such as separation coaches, child consultants, or divorce financial experts.
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Tony slipped his tablet into his briefcase. He had reviewed the materials from his collaborative lawyer and highlighted the part about reaching a “fair and equitable settlement.” He knew today’s joint meeting was simply step one: they’d review the participation agreement and identify pressing issues, but still his heart was beating wildly in his chest. His lawyer had explained that he and the other lawyer would be taking turns hosting as well as sharing other responsibilities throughout the process. Tony found it hard to believe that lawyers could work co-operatively together. He’d heard too many horror stories from his divorced friends.
To Tony’s surprise, Rebecca’s lawyer greeted him with a big smile and friendly handshake. She offered him a cup of coffee and invited him to make himself comfortable while waiting for his own lawyer to arrive. Looking around the room, a book on the coffee table caught his eye, “What happens next? Information for kids about separation and divorce” and as he started to flip through the pages Rebecca walked in. He noted her look of surprise. She probably hadn’t expected he’d get there on time, let alone be a few minutes early.
Rebecca checked to make sure she had her phone and the binder of information her collaborative lawyer had given her, took a deep breath, and opened the car door. As she crossed the street she thought about some of the guiding principles identified in the participation agreement. Honesty. Respectful communication. That no one would take advantage of any mistake that might be made during the process. She had to admit that she felt skeptical, especially after having watched the Marriage Story on Netflix the night before.
Tony was already there sitting on the couch and looking at a book in the waiting room. Rebecca couldn’t remember Tony ever being on time, let alone early. Before she was able to process her surprise, the receptionist came around the corner, a steaming cup of coffee in his hand and a smile on his face. He handed the coffee to Tony and asked Rebecca if she would like a beverage as well, inviting her to wait in the boardroom while her lawyer grabbed a notebook and pen from the other room.