Collaborative Law: The "No Court" Alternative

By David S. DeRose, Esq. and Joyce Novotny-Prettiman, Esq.

Collaborative Law is an alternative to traditional litigation. A collaborative attorney works for a client through a process of direct negotiations to seek a timely and complete solution that both clients agree serves their best interests. The collaborative process can be applied to a number of areas of law, including divorce, custody, support, real estate disputes, monetary disputes, constitution claims and other similar cases.

If parties choose this process, they agree to participate in a collaborative effort to reach a consensus. This means that each party needs to retain an attorney who is willing to represent the client on a collaborative basis. An attorney who participates in the collaborative process is disqualified from pursuing a client's claim in court. The idea is to focus on resolution and not permit interference from the threat of a court proceeding. The parties participate in a series of meetings with their counsel. Full disclosure of all information that would be necessary to resolve the case is required. Parties may jointly retain other experts to aid in the process, such as land surveyors, real estate appraisers, financial experts and counselors.

For example, this concept can be easily applied to parties who are contemplating divorce but are willing to work toward a constructive settlement of the financial and custody issues. The parties pledge to work together to determine all of the assets and obligations of the marriage which both sides will use to support a dignified dissolution of the marriage. In order for a client and an attorney to work as a team and successfully interact with the other spouse and attorney, both parties may find input from a financial advisor or a real estate appraiser helpful in leading to a solution. This all becomes part of the collaborative process and hopefully results in a solution that saves both parties time, money, heartache and the aggravation that could flow from litigation. Should the collaborative process break down, then both collaborative attorneys must withdraw and instruct both clients to retain other counsel to litigate the matter in court.

In our office, attorneys David S. DeRose and Joyce Novotny-Prettiman have been trained in the collaborative process and are members of the Collaborative Lawyers' Association of Southwestern Pennsylvania (www.clasplaw.org). If you believe that a matter in which you are involved can be resolved through collaboration, please contact us to discuss this alternative. We look forward to pursuing this method of dispute resolution and working with other collaborative practitioners to help clients arrive at a mutually acceptable solution.