Collaborative Law FAQ


What is a collaborative divorce?

CPCal describes Collaborative Practice as follows:

What is Collaborative Practice?

Collaborative Practice is a method of resolving disputes where participants work with a team of professionals to craft their own agreements. Clients work together in a respectful way, keeping in mind the importance of protecting their children and other involved people from conflict. Decisions are made by the participants without the involvement of a judge or other decision authority.

Collaborative Law, Collaborative Practice, Collaborative Process, and Collaborative Divorce are terms often used interchangeably. “Collaborative Divorce” refers to the resolution of particular types of family law disputes (divorce and domestic partnerships). But it does not fully convey the many ways the Collaborative approach to solving legal dispute can be applied.

All of our member groups are committed to the Collaborative Process, an approach to solving problems by reaching mutually agreeable solutions. Clients and professionals work together, respectfully and in good faith, to gather the information needed to reach an agreement. The goal is a win/win situation for all participants.

Typically clients and professionals meet together to plan for information gathering, make interim arrangements, and discuss issues. A team will be assembled based on the participants’ needs and can include attorneys, communications coaches and child specialists (both roles are filled by mental health specialists), financial experts, and other professionals as needed. Information gathered will be shared with the other clients and team members in order to clarify each participant’s interests and stimulate ideas for possible solutions. All communications made during the Collaborative Process will remain confidential and will not be used as evidence if the case later goes to court.

A settlement which meets the approval of all clients can then be fashioned. This method of handling conflict is designed to minimize hostility and allow the participants the possibility of a cordial relationship in the future.

In whatever type of legal concern the Collaborative Process is applied, its guiding principles remain the same. All clients and Collaborative professionals agree at the outset that the case will be settled, not contested. If the case cannot be settled, the attorneys and other professionals must withdraw, and the attorneys will assist the participants in finding new attorneys to help them settle the case through the traditional court system. Even in these cases some groundwork will have been laid for a more effective way of clients working together and resolving their differences in the future.

The Team

One reason the Collaborative Practice model works so well in solving disputes lies in its interdisciplinary team approach. The Collaborative Team draws upon the expertise of legal, financial, and mental health professionals, working together on your behalf to provide a healthy, congenial, intelligent approach to divorce, trust & estates, and other civil matters.

Your Collaborative Team may consist of an attorney, a financial specialist, a communication coach, and possibly a child specialist, all trained in the Collaborative Practice model. Learn more about their individual roles and how each professional works to provide you maximum support for all facets of the divorce process.

Collaborative Attorney

  • Assists you in gathering and analyzing information;
  • Explores your needs and interests to develop settlement options and packages;
  • Evaluates the consequences and limitations of possible solutions;
  • Weighs your settlement options in relation to your personal values and interests;
  • Establishes a framework for negotiation;
  • Prepares required legal documentation of your agreement and obtains a Judgment; and
  • Works with you to develop any post-divorce agreements as needed.

Financial Specialist

  • Assesses your current financial status;

Gains an understanding of your financial priorities: for example, keeping the family home, or preserving retirement options;

  • Gathers accurate financial data;
  • Provides valuation services;
  • Develops different financial settlement scenarios for you to evaluate; and

Offers financial guidance, planning, support and budgeting throughout the divorce process, with follow-up as needed.

Collaborative Coach

  • Helps you clarify your most pressing concerns;
  • Helps you learn to manage your emotions;
  • Helps you develop and reinforce effective communication skills;
  • Helps you build effective co-parenting skills; and
  • Helps you navigate your after-divorce adjustment, with six and 12 month follow ups.

Child Specialist

  • Takes time to listen to each child’s concerns, fears, and hopes;
  • Educates you about the needs of your child in the context of the divorce;

Offers resources and guidance to help you maintain healthy relationships with your children;

Guides you through establishing a co-parenting relationship with your child’s needs in mind; and

Shares information with the Collaborative Coach and Practice team to assist in developing an effective co-parenting plan, with six and 12 month follow-ups.

Case Manager

  • Manages the logistics of the case;
  • Ensures the Collaborative Process is running smoothly;
  • Maintains the schedule including meetings;
  • Facilitates team communication before and after meetings;
  • Tracks timely completion of tasks; and
  • Stays mindful of team dynamics which can affect the Collaborative Process.

CPCal is the State organization.  Many counties through the State have at least one practice group.  In Orange County, visit   

What are the benefits of using a collaborative method?

The reason collaborative law is effective is that it is almost always less expensive than litigation but is still costly.  The time to complete is typically half that of litigation, but not always.  The biggest advantages, especially if children are involved (either minor or adult children) is that the spouses learn to communicate in a more effective manner.  There is less post-judgment return -- and if there is a return (typically for parenting or support issues), it is quickly resolved in the collaborative process.  In Court, there is not ample time for a parent to explain to the Court why a particular plan is not in the best interests of the minor child.  That is not the case in collaborative law.  Only one case at a time is handled in the collaborative meetings versus 10-20 cases on the calendar in court.  The spouses have the say in the resolution of all issues, not some stranger in a black robe.   

What is the process of a collaborative divorce?

Each spouse retains an attorney.  A full team would be each spouse has their own coach who is a mental-health professional, a child specialist if there are minor children or adult children who need to be a part of the process and a neutral financial expert who works with the assets, debts and support issues.  The child specialist is neutral.  A full team is not always the right fit for everyone.  There are various ways the team can be arranged.  Sometimes a realtor trained in collaborative can come into the process or other resources.  Initially there is a full-team meeting so everyone can be on the same page as to the goals and process and to see if there are any emergency immediate needs.  The attorneys will prepare the filings for the court.  There will be meetings between the coach and their spouse or between the attorney and the spouse or the coach, attorney and spouse as needed.  When everyone is Agreement Ready, a full-team meeting is held to resolve the issues.  Sometimes this can be one meeting, often more than one.

How do I get started on the collaborative process?

In Orange County go to and select a professional listed on the page.  Contact that person and discuss the next steps and whether collaborative is the right process for you.

What does my attorney do during a collaborative divorce?

Much less than in litigation.  The attorneys give legal information and assist in the selection of issues and makes sure the client understands the legal significance of the issues.  Some attorneys handle the disclosure documents and some have the financial neutral handle that.

What is the cost for collaborative?

Attorneys typically charge about double of the other participants, which is one of the reasons the cost for a divorce is lower in collaborative -- plus it is completed in about 1/2 the time so less opportunity to bill.  In litigation attorneys do most of the work that the other professionals do but cannot be as effective as those trained in their particular profession.  Each professional has their own retainer and charges at their own hourly rate.