Collaborative Law Process

Edina, MN Family Law Attorney, Jane Van Valkenburg describes the “collaborative law” process in divorce.

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Collaborative law was started here in Minnesota and is now a worldwide phenomenon. And what it is, it’s a process that’s started where the parties sign something called a “participation agreement.” And the participation agreement is critical in that it says a lot of things but, most importantly, people are going to be transparent, which means we can talk about anything – questions that may not be appropriate in another process, but they can be asked there.

It also says that people are going to be setting goals, so that those goals are set and they guide people throughout the process. They also say that they’re not going to threaten to go to court, but we work within what’s called the “shadow of the law,” so that we know what the law is, but we also know what we’re doing is setting goals for the family, so we’re going to be creative and try to find things that work for this family even though that may not be what the law says.

If somebody says, “I don’t like this. I’m getting out of the process,” then the attorneys have to withdraw and the parties start all over again. And that sounds harsh, but the purpose of that is wonderful, and that means the parties and the attorneys have an incentive to be as creative as possible. You work to say, “Well, this isn’t working and it’s falling apart, so what can we do that may not be something we’ve done before.”

And in that process we have people, specialists – financial specialists and child specialists – that are there to help us be creative. The child specialists have talked with the children, have talked with the parents. They’re gonna give us something creative. The financial specialists have done the same thing. So we’ve got these people, where what the attorneys say is, “I’m not a child specialist, so tell me with your specialty what we can do for this family.” I’m not a financial specialist. I’ve done this for 30 years and I’ve got plenty of knowledge of these things, but I’m not a specialist. So we turn to those people and we look to be creative and find out what’s best for this family.

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