Collaborative Family Law
COLLABORATIVE FAMILY LAWYER
Phyllis Rubenstein has been representing people in family matters without court litigation or intervention since 2004. A leader in the practice of collaborative family law in Vermont, she offers a wide range of collaborative and negotiation alternatives to effectively help separating and divorcing clients reach fair and mutually-acceptable solutions about legal, financial and parenting issues in a respectful and dignified manner.
Ms. Rubenstein is a former chairperson of the Vermont Bar Association Family Law Committee. She helped found and was co-chairperson and/or chairperson the Vermont Bar Association Section of Collaborative Law for many years. She is currently a member of the Section and a member of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals. She regularly attends and/or presents at collaborative family law conferences.
WHAT IS COLLABORATIVE LAW
Collaborative Law is a relatively new option for couples to resolve disputes respectfully and fairly without going to court. The aim of the collaborative process is to help couples focus on their most important goals, such as protecting children or providing each spouse with financial security. The end result is more efficient and productive.
In collaborative law, each spouse hires a specially-trained collaborative lawyer.They may also hire a specially-trained mental health professional and/or financial planner Both spouses, their lawyers and other professional team members sign an agreement, which establishes the ground rules for the collaborative process, such as sharing relevant information, maintaining confidentiality, treating each other respectfully and hiring other neutral professionals jointly. The key to collaborative law is that the spouses, their lawyers and other neutral professionals agree not to use the court as a decision maker or to threaten to file an action in court.
Through a series of team meetings, both spouses, their lawyers and other professionals identify common goals, share information, brainstorm options and reach agreement on a divorce settlement. While each lawyer continues to give advice and assistance to his or her client, the lawyers also establish a safe place for open and honest discussion about difficult issues and facilitate healthy communication. The mental health professional provides invaluable expertise in understanding the emotional undercurrent and maintaining health dialogue. The financial professional helps the spouses gather and evaluate financial information. At the conclusion of the process, the spouses sign the Divorce Agreement and other paperwork, prepared by the attorneys, which is then submitted to the court. The court will issue a Final Divorce Order without either spouse ever appearing in court.
There are many benefits to collaborative law. Unlike litigation, where the process is dictated by the inflexible time frames of the court and decision-making is left to judges, you and your spouse have greater control over the process and the outcome. Instead of the win-lose court setting, the collaborative team ensures that both you and your spouse work together, towards mutually beneficial solutions. Since the threat of court is removed, there are tremendous opportunities for creative problem solving and the ability to reach a resolution that maximizes the well-being of all concerned. In cases with children, families are not destroyed and the children are protected from custody battles and conflicts between their parents. No one needs to undergo the trauma of court hearings or even attend court proceedings. Cases resolve more quickly and the process costs less than typical litigation. Finally, you and your spouse will develop a framework for effectively communicating your concerns and goals that may have a positve application outside of the divorce.
OTHER NON-ADVERSARIAL OPTIONS
Ms. Rubenstein also represents family law clients who wish to resolve issues amicably and respectfully through mediation and/or negotiation. In many situations, one spouse is represented by Ms. Rubenstein and the other spouse either is unrepresented or retains a lawyer to review settlement offers and other paperwork. When a resolution is reached in this way, spouses without children may avoid all court appearances. If there are minor children, the spouses must attend the final hearing.
Ms. Rubenstein represents family law clients at an hourly rate. She will quote you a retainer at your initial office consultation based upon the complexities of your particular case. The retainer is an approximation of your total legal costs, which is to be paid in advance. The monies are deposited into an attorney trust account.
IN THE NEWS
Ms. Rubenstein wrote an article published in the Fall 2010 issue of The Vermont Bar Journal, "Collaborative Law: Effectively Resolving Conflict Without Going to Court." To read the article, go to http://www.vtbar.org/Images/Journal/journalarticles/fall2010/ADR.
Ms. Rubenstein was interviewed by The Bridge, a weekly Montpelier newspaper. To read the January 2009 interview, go to http://www.montpelierbridge.com/jan8-09Bridge_1-8.pdf. The Bridge published an interview of Julia Gresser, LCMHC, a Richard Witte, Ph.D., in January 2014 by Joyce Kahn, entitled "Collaborative Law Process: A New Paradigm for Divorcing Parents."