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Collaborative Law and Elder Law

Across the country, collaborative law has taken hold as a viable alternative to litigation in civil matters.  The collaborative approach is a form of dispute resolution that allows parties to reach a mutually beneficial outcome by avoiding any litigious court intervention.  In the collaborative law process, each party is represented by an attorney who must be certified in collaborative law.  In order for an attorney to become certified in collaborative law, he or she must receive training in both mediation and the collaborative process.  In collaborative law, each party signs an agreement that promises fair dealing, respect, and a complete ban on courtroom litigation.  If either party decides to take the matter to court, then both attorneys must withdraw, and the parties must begin their case from scratch through the court system. 

The collaborative law process allows the parties to address the emotional, social, and financial issues underlying their legal disagreements in a cost-effective manner.  For example, parties are encouraged to bring experts from other fields into the discussion, including financial planners, psychologists, and appraisers to help achieve optimal results.  The parties agree to share their experts, which allows both parties to defray the costs associated with involving experts in dispute resolution. 

Collaborative law is most often associated with family law.  Domestic relations disputes are often emotionally-charged, with parties commonly disagreeing because of feelings of loss, betrayal, and abandonment.  The collaborative approach allows the parties to address their legal issues in a safe, non-litigious manner that encourages resolution of both the legal and interpersonal disputes.  Collaborative law can help to settle a divorce or custody issue while maintaining a healthy family relationship. 

As more attorneys realize the benefits of collaborative law, the practice is increasingly applied to other areas of the law.  One such development is in the field of elder law. The elements of collaborative law that make it so beneficial in family law also make it an attractive option for elder law.   Elder law attorneys aim to facilitate their clients’ independence through educating family members about different financial and legal options available, as well as financial and disability planning.  Oftentimes such legal and financial decisions lead to messy disputes between family members arising from different ideas of how to best care for their loved ones.  Collaborative law can help families reach an agreement while still maintaining their close interpersonal relationships. 

In the elder law setting, collaborate law often improves communication between the parties and provides for a more open sharing of information, leading to the preservation of family harmony and a reduction in conflict and resentment in the future.  Additionally, the collaborative process allows for greater control of the process by the parties involved and a decrease in cost and waste of family resources.  Most importantly, collaborative law in the elder law setting can provide enhanced privacy and dignity for the elder involved. 

The collaborative process can play a part in resolving different elder law issues.  For example, it can facilitate proactive plans for what will happen when an aging family member needs assistance, as well as aiding in the resolution of disputes regarding Powers of Attorney and Advanced Health Care Directives.  With its focus on cooperation and avoiding court, utilizing collaborative law in the elder law setting can help families resolve their important legal issues by helping the parties to work together to address their loved ones’ legal needs in a safe and constructive environment.  To schedule a consultation with a certified collaborative law attorney, call Family Legal Center, LLC at (412) 824-0100. 

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