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There's a pervasive idea out there that says a divorce has to be a contentious process, that both sides must take an adversarial position, fighting spitefully over every last detail until hatred is all that's left. Collaborative law takes a different approach. It's based on the idea that, with the help of mediators, two people can sit down informally and work through the issues to come to a mutually beneficial agreement before the courts decide for them.

The advantage, compared to protracted court battles, is that there exists the chance of both sides remaining friends, or, at the very least, maintaining a relationship that's in the best interests of the child. While the reasons vary for why the union should end, nothing requires a termination of the love or respect that helped form the union.

Of course, collaborative law works best when both parties are willing to work together. Clearly, that's not always the case and it can fall apart, but it's a great place to start, especially when it comes to difficult issues like visitation and child custody. Often, each parent will have his or her own representation throughout the process to help negotiate and foster an environment of cooperation.

The end result of collaborative law is an agreement on paper detailing custody and visitation plans. The attorneys submit the paperwork to court and both parties agree to refrain from litigation. If litigation does become an inevitability, both attorneys must withdraw from the case. Susan Millican O'Brian and her team will work tirelessly to settle your divorce in a nonadversarial manner if avoiding negative litigation is your preference.