Who Uses Collaborative Practice?

The collaborative law practice can also be utilized by parties seeking assistance in:

  • Family court for both support & custody
  • Same sex couples, regardless of marital status

Family Court for both Support & Custody

Issues concerning children are the most important and sensitive issues in all of divorce law. In many cases, a parent has somewhat conflicting feelings about how to handle custody and visitation. You may know what kind of arrangement you want, but you also know that a different arrangement would be better for your children.

How Does the Collaborative Process Resolve Child Custody?

The collaborative process is about asking questions and gaining a real understanding of not only your own position, but also the positions of your spouse and your children. You and your spouse will work with one or more specialists who will help you approach custody in a productive, cooperative way. The specialist will help you consider many things, such as:
  • Parenting plans
  • Would our family be better served by a primary parent arrangement of a shared parenting arrangement?
  • The child’s schooling
  • Whether the child will be brought up in a certain religious faith

What if You Need to Modify Custody?

Life goes on after divorce, and sometimes major changes happen. When they do, you may want to change your parenting plan. If you used the collaborative divorce method, you may wish to return to the collaborative process to decide how to modify the arrangements. We will sit down with you, gain an understanding of what has changed and work toward a solution that fits your new needs.

How Much Child Support in My Situation?

New York State uses a series of guidelines (the Child Support Standards Act) to determine the amount of child support to be paid. While it is possible to use the guidelines yourself, working with a lawyer can reduce complications and protect your best interests. Particularly, if you or your spouse earns a high income, the guidelines may affect you differently. It is important to work with an experienced advocate who can do more than just do the arithmetic.

Enforcement and Collection of Child Support

New York State offers child support collection services, but parents may also benefit from working with an experienced attorney. We can work with you to create solutions that may not otherwise be available through state agencies. For example, many people do not know that it is possible to collect delinquent child support payments from a parent’s pension. You do have options and we can help.

Solutions for All Same-Sex Divorce Issues

Now that New York law gives equal rights to all couples, the issues that are involved in a same-sex divorce are the same as those presented in opposite-sex divorce cases. Our skilled attorneys can help you resolve things like:

  • Division of property and debts
  • Dealing with business property and professional licenses
  • Estate planning and estate tax implications of divorce
  • Alimony/spousal maintenance
  • Child custody and child support

Some gay and lesbian couples may have signed a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement that outlines how some of these issues should be decided. In these cases, we will analyze the agreement and make sure your rights are protected. We encourage same-sex couples to think about using collaborative divorce rather than traditional litigation. The collaborative process empowers spouses and encourages cooperation, which often leads to a more satisfying outcome for everyone involved.

Principles of Collaborative Practice in Other Applications

All negotiations take place in four-way conferences between parties and their attorneys. Each party has built-in legal advice and advocacy during negotiations and each attorney is committed to guiding the parties toward a reasonable settlement. Because no one, neither the parties nor the attorneys can go to court or threaten to go to court, settlement is the only goal. The parties are encouraged and helped to communicate their real needs and interests. Through safe and focussed discussions, each of the parties is encouraged to recognize the needs of their children and the needs and interests of the other party.


All acknowledge that the essence of "Collaborative Law" is the shared belief by the participants that it is in the best interests of parties and their families in typical family law matters to commit themselves to avoiding litigation. Therefore they adopt this conflict resolution process, which does not rely on a court-imposed resolution, but relies on an atmosphere of honesty, cooperation, integrity and professionalism geared toward the future well-being of the family.
The goal is to minimize, if not eliminate, the negative economic, social and emotional consequences of protracted litigation to the participants and their families. The participants commit themselves to the collaborative law process and agree to seek a better way to resolve differences justly and equitably.

Understanding the Process

No Court or Other Intervention

Issues will be resolved without court intervention.

The parties will give full, honest and open disclosure of all information, whether requested or not.

There will be informal discussions and conferences to settle all issues.

The parties direct all attorneys, accountants, therapists, appraisers and other consultants to work in a cooperative effort to resolve issues without resort to litigation or any other external decision-making process except as agreed upon.


The parties understand there is no guarantee that the process will be successful in resolving their case and that the process cannot eliminate concerns about the disharmony, distrust and irreconcilable differences which have led to the current conflict.

The parties understand that they are still expected to assert their respective interests and that their attorneys will help them do so. They understand that they should not lapse into a false sense of security that the process will protect each of them, fully.

The parties understand that while their collaborative attorneys share a commitment to the collaborative law process, each of them has a professional duty to represent his or her own client diligently, and is not the attorney for the other party.

Attorney’s Fees and Costs

The parties understand that their attorneys are entitled to be paid for their services, and that one of the first tasks in a collaborative law matter is to ensure parity of payment to each of them. The parties agree to make funds available for this purpose.

Participation With Integrity

The participants will work to protect the privacy, respect and dignity of all involved, including parties, attorneys and consultants. All shall maintain a high standard of integrity and specifically shall not take advantage of each other or of the miscalculations or inadvertent mistakes of others, but shall identify and correct them. Experts and Consultants

If experts are needed, they will be retained jointly unless all parties and their attorneys agree otherwise in writing.

Children’s Issues

In resolving issues about sharing the enjoyment of and responsibility for their children, the parties, their attorneys and therapists shall make every effort to reach amicable solutions that promote the children’s best interests.

All agree to act quickly to discuss and resolve differences related to the children to promote a caring, loving and involved relationship between the children and both parents.

The parties agree to insulate their children from involvement in the family law disputes and agree to attend the A.C.T. Program (Acting for Children Through Transition) or similar parenting education program in a county where a program is available.

Negotiation in Good Faith

The parties acknowledge that each of their attorneys is independent from the other, and represents only one party in the collaborative law process.

All understand that the process, even with full and honest disclosure, will involve vigorous good faith negotiation.

Each of the parties will be expected to make a reasoned statement of legitimate needs and interests in all disputes. Where such legitimate needs and interests differ, each of the parties will be encouraged to use their best efforts to create proposals that meet the fundamental needs of both of the parties and the family to reach a settlement of all issues.

Although the participants may discuss the likely outcome of a litigated result, no one will use threats of litigation as a way of forcing settlement.

Abuse of The Collaborative Law Process

The parties understand that their collaborative law attorneys will withdraw from a case and/or will terminate the collaborative law process as soon as possible upon learning that a party has withheld or misrepresented information or otherwise acted so as to undermine or take unfair advantage of the collaborative law process. Examples of such violations of the process are: the secret disposition of property, failing to disclose the existence or the true nature of assets and/or obligations, failure to participate in the true spirit of the collaborative process, abusing the minor children of the parties, or planning to flee the jurisdiction of the court with the children.

Disqualification By Court Intervention

The parties understand that their attorneys’ representation is limited to the Collaborative Law process and that neither of the attorneys can ever represent them in court in a proceeding against the other party. In the event a court filing is unavoidable, both attorneys will be disqualified from representing either client.

In the event that the collaborative law process terminates, all consultants will be disqualified as witnesses and their work product will be inadmissible as evidence unless the parties agree otherwise in writing.


Both parties and both attorneys pledge to comply with and to promote the spirit and written word of the "Principles of Collaborative Law".

Getting Started

Once people become aware of Collaborative Law and decide they would like to try it, the next question for them is, “How do I get started?”

Here are some simple steps to follow:

  • Learn About Collaborative Law
  • Consult a Collaborative Attorney
  • Introduce the Idea of Collaborative Law to Your Spouse
  • Create a Collaborative Team
  • Schedule a Joint Meeting