Does it matter who files first?

No. It doesn’t matter if you are the petitioner (the party who files the papers) or the respondent.  For many couples, though, a Joint Petition for Dissolution is much more appealing.  It tells the world you have worked out an amicable agreement with your spouse.  You may no longer be marriage partners, but you don't have to be enemies.

My spouse and I have a history of domestic abuse. Do we have to mediate?

No. If domestic abuse has occurred between you and your spouse, you are not required to mediate, collaborate, or attend any form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR). Nonetheless, many people find that an ADR process can be empowering.

How is custody determined?

If you and your spouse cannot agree on custody, you have filed documents with the court, and you have used the early neutral evaluation (ENE) process, then a neutral third party will perform a custody evaluation and make the determination.

How is a custody evaluation performed?

Generally speaking, the evaluator meets with you, your spouse, and the children. By interviewing you, your spouse, your children, and other people close to you, the evaluator issues a report based on the best interests of the children standard.

How is a custody evaluation performed?

Generally speaking, the evaluator meets with and interviews you, your spouse, your children, and other individuals close to you and your family. The evaluator makes a recommendation based on the interviews and uses the best interests of the children standard. The best interests standard is based on Minnesota statute and consists of 13 factors:
• You and your spouse's wishes;
• The children's wishes, depending on their ages;
• The children's primary caregiver;
• The intimacy of the parent-child relationship
• The children's interaction and interrelationship with each other, you and your spouse, and other significant people;
• The children's adjustment to home, school, and the community;
• The length of time the child has resided in a stable, satisfactory environment, and the desirability to maintain continuity;
• The permanence, as a family unit, of the existing or proposed parental home;
• The mental and physical health of all individuals involved;
• Your capacity and disposition and your spouse's capacity and disposition to give the children love, affection, and guidance and to continue educating the children in their culture and religion, if any;
• The children's cultural background;
• If domestic abuse has occurred, the effect it had on the children; and
• Except where a finding of domestic abuse is made, the disposition of each parent to encourage and permit frequent and continuing contact by the other parent with the children.

What is collaborative family law?

It is private process for resolving family law matters.  The divorcing couple hires collaboratively trained attorneys and the focus is on helping the couple move forward, especially if young children are involved.  Time is spent focusing on the interests and needs of not only the couple, but their children.  Rather than spending time (and money) fighting in court and getting now where fast, time is spent focusing on creating a plan that works for everyone, including the children.  The collaborative process is a multidisciplinary, holistic, and grown-up way to divorce.

How does Collaboration differ from other family law processes?

In a nutshell:  AUTONOMY.  If you go to court, the judge makes the decisions for you.  You lose all decision-making power.  You lose autonomy.  In addition, Collaboration provides:
• Privacy. Documents contained in court files are subject to public review; however, because the parties agree not to litigate, they won’t need to serve and file motions and affidavits with the court, which are available to the public, and are nothing more than vehicles to disparage your spouse.  Think about whether you want those words "out there."  Would you want your children to someday read about what you said about their father/mother?
• Dignity and respect. No one’s perfect, and you’ve made some mistakes. But those mistakes are dramatized in the litigation process. Just because your marriage is breaking down doesn’t mean your dignity and self-respect should dissolve, too. It is perfectly natural and normal to be sad, angry, depressed, and frustrated.  The collaborative process addresses the emotional health of the individual family members.  We can refer you to outside therapists.  We truly are here to help.

Co-parenting.  Nothing is more important than your children, right?  Collaboration can actually help you and your spouse become better co-parents.  The litigation process will just create more conflict and wear everyone down.

How is collaborative different from mediation?

The collaborative process involves a multidisciplinary approach: the parties and their lawyers work with neutral experts (a financial neutral, child specialist, and divorce coach) as needed, to reach an agreement that works for the entire family.  In mediation, the process involves one neutral who helps the parties and their attorneys reach an agreement on all issues.  the parties may or may not have attorneys in the mediation process.  The mediator's job is to facilitate a settlement on all issues.

What happens if we cannot resolve the issues?

Most cases are resolved in the Collaborative process.  If we reach impasse, we then call in mediator or another neutral to help "shake things up."  If you just cannot move forward or if one of you (for whatever reason) wants to go to court, then both lawyers withdraw and both parties start over with new counsel.

What does it cost?

It depends on the situation, the issues involved, the degree of conflict between the couple, and the ability to make decisions and see the big picture.  Litigation will always take longer and be more expensive than Collaboration.

How are collaborative family law attorneys different than other family law attorneys?

Collaborative attorneys are trained in Collaborative techniques.  We think "win-win" rather than "win-lose."  Collaborative attorneys have the same legal education and knowledge as other family law attorneys, but Collaborative attorneys are required to have special training in interest-based negotiation and conflict resolution.  These skills assist the parties in arriving at not only a true win-win outcome, but at an agreement that is viable, durable, and unique to each family; thus, the inevitable win-lose outcome encountered in litigation can be avoided.

How do I convince my spouse to get a collaborative attorney?

If possible, sit down with your spouse and tell him or her about the process.  Give your spouse links to this website and www.collaborativelaw.org. If you don’t succeed, talk to someone your spouse respects, perhaps a professional, like a minister or counselor, or a trusted family member or friend, and direct that person to the various websites.  Perhaps if your spouse learns about Collaborative divorce from someone other than you or an attorney, he or she might be more receptive to the process.