What is the Collaborative Participation Agreement?

The Collaborative Participation Agreement (sometimes called the “P. A.”) is a signed agreement that makes officially makes a case a “Collaborative” case.  This agreement is a contract between the clients, the attorneys and the additional professionals to negotiate the entire case.  It obligates everyone on the team to negotiate the entire case in good faith and with full disclosure, and to not file a case in court or threaten to file a case in court.  Of course, you cannot be prevented from filing in court in an emergency situation.  Further, there are certain requirements for filing in non-emergency situations.

There are several important aspects of the Collaborative Participation Agreement.  One of those aspects is something called the “disqualification provision.”  The disqualification provision prevents the Collaborative attorneys from representing the Collaborative client in a court proceeding.  This provision is particularly important because it ensures that the attorneys will be committed 100% to settling the case, rather than trying to settle on one hand but preparing to litigate on the other.

A Participation Agreement will often describe the what it means to participate in good faith and with integrity.  The Participation Agreement I frequently use provides the following:

  • We know that the Collaborative process, even with full sharing of all relevant information between us, will still involve vigorous good-faith negotiation between us.
  • We will take a reasoned position on all disputes.
  • We will use our best efforts to create proposals that meet the basic needs of both of us.  We recognize that both of us must be willing to compromise to reach a settlement of all issues.
  • We will work to protect the privacy and dignity of all involved, including ourselves, our child/children, attorneys and any other professionals.
  • We shall maintain a high standard of integrity and always act respectfully and in good faith.
  • We shall not take advantage of each other or of the miscalculations or inadvertent mistakes of others, but shall acknowledge and correct them.
  • We will describe our interest, needs, goals and ideas as clearly as possible and will do our best to understand those of the other person.
  • We will do our best to work together with our lawyers as a team, to reach the best and fairest results for both of us, and our family.

There are many different versions of a Collaborative Participation Agreement, but each of them has these same common elements.


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