How to Choose a Collaborative Divorce Attorney

To many people faced with the prospect of ending a marriage, Collaborative Divorce sounds like an appealing option. Collaborative Divorce offers a prospect of a quicker, more amicable divorce, often with lower legal bills and a more satisfactory outcome than litigation.

As Collaborative Divorce grows in popularity, more attorneys are eager to offer this service to prospective clients. In order to be able for an attorney to represent himself as a Collaborative attorney, he must have completed a multi-day Collaborative Practice training by an approved organization.

For attorneys who are truly committed to helping clients unwind their marriages through Collaborative Divorce, however, the basic training is just the beginning. The best Collaborative attorneys are those who view Collaborative as a real opportunity to help clients take control of their divorce, not as a marketing gimmick to get clients in the door.

So how do you tell the difference? And why does it matter?

Having a committed, well-trained Collaborative attorney is important because a successful Collaborative divorce requires a different set of skills and a different mindset than attorneys are used to operating with. An unskilled attorney can disrupt the process, wasting time and money.

In order to choose a skilled Collaborative attorney, there are a number of questions you can ask, including:

  • What Collaborative organizations do you belong to? All Collaborative attorneys in Michigan are entitled to membership in the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP) and the Collaborative Practice Institute of Michigan (CPIM), as well as a local practice group, usually at the county level. A good Collaborative attorney will maintain active membership in these groups.
  • How often do you attend your local Collaborative practice group meetings?  Meetings at the local level are how Collaborative attorneys maintain their skills and develop good working relationships with other Collaborative professionals. Regular attendance at monthly meetings is a good sign.
  • How often do you attend continuing education programs for Collaborative practice? Basic training is just that–basic. To become a skilled practitioner, and maintain skills, Collaborative attorneys should attend continuing education as often as possible.
  • Have you been trained in mediation?  Although Collaborative Divorce and mediation are different processes, the skills needed for each overlap considerably. Most skilled Collaborative practitioners are also trained in family law mediation.
  • Can you represent me in litigation if the Collaborative process doesn’t work out?A central tenet of Collaborative Divorce is that parties agree to fully disclose all relevant information. If for some reason the process doesn’t work, one party’s attorney may be privy to information he might not otherwise have. Therefore, he cannot ethically represent the same client in litigation. An attorney who agrees to do so is not a Collaborative attorney.