Are collaborative divorce and mediation available in Louisiana and how can they help me avoid going to court for my divorce?

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Collaborative Divorce (Collaborative) is an alternative to going to court to resolve the parties' domestic issues. Collaborative offers parties a peaceful, solution-based approach to ending a relationship. Collaborative is different than traditional litigation because it promotes respect and gives control of the process to the parties, not a judge. Parties agree in writing not to go to court, so the process is more open and less adversarial. The goal is to enhance communication throughout the process and to lay the foundation for a healthier relationship during and after the domestic relationship ends. Through Collaborative a healthy relationship for the future is preserved rather than destroyed. Collaborative is based upon three underlying principles: First, the parties pledge in writing not to go to court; second, both parties engage in an honest and full exchange of information; and lastly, each solution takes into account the highest priorities of both parties and their children.

The multidisciplinary Collaborative approach provides the parties with the most knowledgeable professionals for the various needs of the parties. All professionals must be collaboratively trained prior to providing collaborative services. Traditionally the parties would each have their own collaborative attorney who provides assistance with their legal concerns and a mental health coach who provides assistance for the mental and emotional concerns. The parties then jointly select a collaborative financial expert for assistance with their financial needs and a child specialist to give voice to the needs of the children. 

All parties sign an agreement not to go to court. However, Collaborative is unique in that the parties and their collaborative professionals meet together for face-to-face discussions and negotiations — outside the courtroom, in an atmosphere of openness and honesty, all assets and liabilities are disclosed, needs are communicated, and solutions are explored. When children are involved, their interests are given foremost priority. The end result of a Collaborative approach is an agreement that has been achieved through mutual problem solving. The parties, along with their collaborative professionals, take control of shaping the final agreement rather than having a resolution imposed upon them by the court. Mediation is a voluntary process that clients may choose to make decisions together with the assistance of a trained professional mediator (Mediator). The Mediator facilitates the parties' discussions but does not give legal advice or make decisions. The mediator may, however, make suggestions of how the various issues in dispute can be resolved. The parties, with input from their attorneys, meet with the mediator to identify issues, complete the exchange of information if necessary, and to use non-coercive problem-solving techniques to come to an agreement. The parties can be supported in or out of the meeting room by consulting lawyers, financial and estate planners, accountants, insurance advisors, therapists and other family members.

Once an agreement is reached and approved, by both the parties and their attorneys, that agreement can be made a judgment which will be enforced by the court.

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Answered 01/15/2014

Disclaimer: This answer was provided by an attorney selected to Super Lawyers, and is intended to be an educated opinion only. This answer should not be relied upon as legal advice, nor construed as a form of attorney-client relationship.

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