Collaborative Law is a process to resolve disputes without going to court.  Each party is represented by a specially-trained attorney and all four sign a Participation Agreement whereby they agree that settlement is the only goal and that the attorneys will withdraw if the process is taken to litigation.  Each party has legal advice and advocacy during negotiations and each attorney is committed to guiding the parties toward a reasonable and judicially enforceable settlement.  All negotiations take place in direct conferences between the parties, their attorneys and allied professionals. The parties are encouraged and guided to communicate their own real needs and interests.  Through safe and focused discussions, both parties are encouraged to recognize the needs of their children and the needs of the other party.  In addition to a just and equitable settlement of the issues between the parties, the collaborative approach strives to minimize the negative economic, social and emotional consequences of protracted litigation to the participants and their families.

Collaborative Law uses an inter-disciplinary approach to resolving the issues between the parties and seeks to integrate all the professional resources that divorcing spouses typically need to address all of the dimensions of divorce. The extent to which particular divorcing spouses will utilize each of these professionals will be adapted to their particular circumstances.

  • Attorneys – Each spouse retains a specifically-trained attorney who helps each understand the legal requirements affecting their divorce, helps them develop options for negotiation of issues and assess the ramifications of each option, and participates with the spouses in settlement discussions aimed at achieving mutually acceptable outcomes. The attorneys also draft the pleadings and other documents necessary for court filing to implement the agreements reached by the spouses.
  • Coaches and other Mental Health Professionals – Each divorcing spouse has a mental health professional who acts as a coach to help work through the anxiety, fear and anger that often accompany these proceedings. The coaches also help the couple improve communication and listening skills, develop parenting and transition plans, and address other needs and concerns. Where children are involved, a neutral child specialist might be called in to assess the children’s needs and concerns, then to communicate these observations to the divorcing parents and help the parents develop skills and strategies to address the effects of the divorce transition on their children.
  • Financial Specialist – The divorcing couple has financial specialist who helps with the assembly and analysis of financial data, investigating undisclosed assets or debts, budgeting, property division, and financial planning for the divorce transition and beyond.

Key aspects of the Participation Agreement govern the process:

  • Full disclosure of all relevant information. This includes all information necessary to make informed decisions during the process. You and your partner agree not to conceal important details from each other and your team of professionals. This avoids the need for the costly process of formal discovery, such as depositions, interrogatories, demands for document production, etc., that can occur in the conventional court process.
  • Confidentiality of statements made by the parties or the professionals. This encourages you to discuss openly your needs and concerns, prior to crafting solutions. You do not need to worry that you or the professionals will be cross-examined or subpoenaed in any subsequent contested court proceeding regarding statements made in this process.
  • Neutral experts. Neutral experts include outside professionals, such as appraisers, and actuaries. They help you with such tasks as: determining values of assets and liabilities, cash flow analysis, budgeting, and creating a parenting plan. These experts are chosen and employed by both of parties, avoiding the use of competing (non-neutral) experts who are frequently hired in the conventional court process.
  • Scope of Service. Collaborative professionals work with you in a completely private dispute resolution process outside of court. The professionals cannot represent you in a conventional court process; therefore, you and your team focus all efforts on creating an enduring agreement that meets your family’s needs.


The collaborative process requires that each party retain a specifically-trained attorney.  Please contact the Law Office of Sarah Pfeiffer to learn more about the collaborative process and determine whether it is right for your circumstances.  For a list of other trained professionals in the area, please visit


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