Collaborative Law
Frequently Asked Questions

Collaborative Law is an approach that allows you to have a strong voice in the process, while still having the support and advocacy of an attorney to guide you toward settlement by agreement. Collaborative Law can be effective in resolving all family law matters including divorce.

What is Collaborative Law?
Collaborative Law is a viable path to resolving divorce or other family law matters outside of court. Like mediation, it is an out of court, confidential process. In Collaborative Law, each party has an attorney. Should you choose to work with Levitt Family Law & Mediation, Karen J. Levitt would be your attorney and advocate to help negotiate an agreement and resolve your divorce or other family legal matter.

The focus is an agreed upon settlement that is equitable and feels “fair” to both parties. The clients and attorneys all work toward defining the specifics of the agreement the parties are trying to reach; in a divorce the agreement would then be presented to the Probate and Family Court for approval and no court appearances are needed except for the final joint hearing to approve the negotiated agreement.

Collaborative Law is a process that can be used for resolving family law matters including divorce and post-divorce matters such as review and reconsideration of alimony, child support, or payment of college expenses, modification of parenting plans, and prenuptial and postnuptial agreements.
Collaborative Law is well suited for simple and straightforward family law matters as well as more complicated and challenging divorces and other family law situations. Collaborative Law can help neutralize power imbalances with its focus on transparency and the sharing of information leading to fair and equitable resolutions. It is used to address disputes about parenting and child care approaches, complex asset divisions and business valuations, support, tax implications of divorce, and in other family law matters or scenarios all of which can benefit greatly from the Collaborative Law approach. You should certainly consider Collaborative Law as an option if you want more control over process and outcome.

How does Collaborative Law differ from settlement counsel?

Collaborative Law is similar to settlement counsel as Karen J. Levitt is retained as legal counsel and is your collaborative lawyer, advocating and negotiating on your behalf to achieve an agreed upon settlement. In reviewing these FAQs as compared to the Settlement Counsel FAQs, you will notice the similarities. The difference is that in Collaborative Law, the parties sign an agreement to resolve the family legal matter, including divorce, outside of court and the attorneys agree not to litigate.

What are the advantages of Collaborative Law?

Choosing the Collaborative Law path offers many potential advantages including, but not limited to:

  • You have legal counsel guiding, supporting, and advocating for you.
  • It is an out of court process focused on resolution by agreement of the family legal matter thorough negotiation, communication, and collaboration.
  • It is private and confidential.
  • It may help you and the other party find a way to co-parent after divorce.
  • It may help maintain relationships with mutual friends, family, business, or community connections that you don’t want to “split” as a result of your divorce.
  • It may enable you to move forward with your life in a more positive manner.
  • The financial cost for legal services can be less than litigation.
  • The timeframe for resolution of a family legal matter through the Collaborative Law process is typically less than litigation.
Why Levitt Family Law & Mediation for Collaborative Law?
Karen J. Levitt has elevated the understanding and general acceptance of Collaborative Law in the state of Massachusetts including being one of the founders of the Massachusetts Collaborative Law Council and serving as a board member and president of this organization. Her decades of experience as a skilled negotiator make her an effective collaborative attorney and a strong advocate for her client.
What happens if resolution can’t be attained through Collaborative Law?
In Collaborative Law, the parties sign an agreement (a process or participation agreement) so the attorneys and the parties involved have an aligned commitment to work through the issues to achieve resolution out of court. If agreement cannot be reached in Collaborative Law, parties can combine Collaborative Law with other processes such as mediation or arbitration to try to reach settlement. If they are still unable to do so, they can always still choose litigation and their Collaborative Law counsel would ensure a smooth transition to litigation counsel.
What kind of training does a Collaborative Lawyer have?

In addition to their professional training and experience, a Collaborative Law attorney has generally also completed a minimum 18-hour training course in Collaborative Law, which focuses on the specifics of the Collaborative Law process and negotiations. Many Collaborative Law attorneys are also trained mediators or have litigation experience as well which is the case for Karen J. Levitt. Learn more about Karen J. Levitt’s experience.

How do I prepare for a meeting with a Collaborative Law attorney?
In advance of the meeting, please be prepared to share your story. We want to understand your goals for the process and the outcome. For example, if we are meeting to get a divorce, we want to hear the history of your marriage and all factual information that you believe would be important for us to know in representing you. Please make note of any concerns for us to discuss and summarize the facts surrounding what is prompting this meeting. It is also helpful to organize your financial information, making a list of assets including how they are titled, and liabilities including whether they are joint or individual debts. Many clients find seeking assistance from their financial planner or advisor is helpful. Gather financial information including, but not limited to, statements regarding bank, investment, stock of any kind, and mortgage accounts or assets and liabilities, as well as paystubs or other evidence of income such as tax returns.
How does Collaborative Law differ from Mediation or Litigation?
Collaborative Law, unlike litigation, is not an adversarial process; instead, both parties have attorneys who are advocates rather than adversaries for their clients and their clients’ interests. In mediation it is not uncommon for parties to attend mediation sessions without counsel even if they have counsel advising them while they are in the mediation process; in Collaborative Law the parties always have counsel at the negotiating table supporting them. A neutral case facilitator, whose primary role is to facilitate effective communication at meetings, is also often part of the Collaborative Law process; this helps streamline the process and can actually help reduce costs by keeping the case focused and moving forward.

One of the hallmarks of the Collaborative Law process is that the clients and the attorneys agree not to go to Court except for final hearing or any agreed upon matters. If the process breaks down the Collaborative Law attorneys help the parties transition to litigation counsel; however, in the Collaborative Law process the clients, attorneys, and the case facilitator all have a shared commitment to working out their issues by agreement which provides for a high degree of successful resolution.

What happens during the Collaborative Law process?
The clients, their attorneys, and the case facilitator work collaboratively toward resolution. Everyone will have input in creating agendas for each meeting and in setting meeting schedules; the parties participate in choosing joint professionals as needed such as a business valuator or real estate appraiser; what documents are exchanged and how they are exchanged is also discussed and agreed upon.

Each meeting may focus on just one issue, for example a parenting plan, or multiple issues, based upon the agenda set. The number of meetings varies depending on the complexity and number of issues to be decided. The process fosters open discussion and sharing of information to help parties reach resolution as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Why is there a case facilitator or “coach”?
A case facilitator or collaborative “coach” as they are sometimes called, is a neutral party who plays a key role in the process, helping the parties move through especially problematic, sensitive, or “hot-button” issues that would otherwise block effective communication and successful negotiation. While not required, it is best practice to have a case facilitator in the Collaborative Law process.
What if we need other professionals to help us?

Financial professionals, business valuators, real estate appraisers or brokers, pension experts, child specialists, or other professionals can be part of the Collaborative Law process as needed. While mediation and litigation sometimes also involve other professionals, they may not be joint professionals as they are in Collaborative Law. The use of a neutral joint professional who works for both parties, reduces time and cost. A neutral joint professional can assist parties in gathering or understanding information necessary to determine asset values, parenting plans, or other issues in the case. Please refer to the Professionals listing for additional information about other professionals that may be part of the process.

What is the cost of Collaborative Law?
The cost of Collaborative Law can vary just like any other legal process – and like mediation and litigation it can depend on the complexity of the issues and the dynamics of the clients. However, the clients have the opportunity to think about costs and determine what is necessary in their case so that they can have some control over their costs.
How long does a Collaborative Law case take?
The average Collaborative Law case, like mediation, takes approximately six months although there are cases that take more or less time than that. Litigated cases typically take longer.
How do I decide whether to do Collaborative Law vs. another process?
There is no magic answer to determining what process works best for you – you should choose a process that you think will work best for you and serve your needs as well as those of your family in achieving your desired result. This website is designed to assist you in gathering information about the various paths for which we can provide services. We are also happy to discuss your options with you to help you to make that decision.

During the initial consultation, we will gather information about you, your marriage or other family law issues, your goals, interests, and concerns, and discuss with you your case including what process options you have available. This discussion is intended to help you decide if Collaborative Law is right for you.

How do I get the other party to also choose Collaborative Law?
We have information we can provide to you about Collaborative Law that you can provide to the other party, including how the other party can find a Collaborative Law attorney. You are also welcome to send the other party to our website for information about Collaborative Law.

During the initial consultation, we will gather information about you, your marriage or other family law issues, your goals, interests, and concerns, and discuss with you your case including what process options you have available. This discussion is intended to help you decide if Collaborative Law is right for you.

Where can I get more information about Collaborative Law?

We have more information about Collaborative Law on our website; review our Resource section as well as search our blog, Around the Table.


General FAQs


Mediation FAQs

Collaborative Law

Collaborative Law FAQs

Settlement Counsel

Settlement Counsel FAQs


Workshops & Training


Legal Resources


Professionals to Help