Collaborative Law and Civil Unions

web-cover-125x145Carrigan Law, LLC is a proud member of Out Front Colorado’s legal directory.  Last month, associate John C. Hoelle was the contributor there of the following brief article on the benefits of “collaborative law,” which is applicable to LGBT or straight couples.




Collaborative Law and Civil Unions


Now that LGBT individuals in Colorado may enter into (and dissolve) civil unions, one choice among many is whether to use lawyers or other professionals to assist with certain aspects of the process.


For example, no lawyers are necessary to help cut the cake at the ceremony, but legal advice may be particularly important for same-sex couples entering into a legal relationship with each other that has complex and shifting ramifications under federal and state law.  A “prenuptial agreement” can lay out certain rights and shared understandings between the individuals, during the relationship and upon any subsequent dissolution (divorce).  If the couple ultimately decides to dissolve their civil union, lawyers and other qualified people may need to help the couple understand their legal and financial obligations to each other, as well as potentially navigate the territory of “co-parenting.”


The Benefits of Collaborative Law


At either the beginning or end of a relationship, there is a growing trend for intimate partners to utilize practitioners trained in “Collaborative Law.”  This formal process is designed to avoid the otherwise adversarial nature of resolving a dispute at the end of relationship or arriving at an agreement at the beginning.  Each party has the advice of counsel as to his or her legal position, and win-win outcomes are negotiated using good-faith, respectful, transparent, “needs-based” techniques at settlement meetings involving both clients and both lawyers.  In addition to the attorneys, other neutral experts are often called in to facilitate, such as a mediator, accountant, mental health consultant, property appraiser, and/or child expert.


In the prenuptial context, the process can provide each person with confidence because someone is looking out for his or her legal rights, while focus remains firmly on reaching outcomes that feel right to both parties together.  The same is true in the divorce context, and in addition, if either client threatens to take the dispute to a judge, the collaborative lawyers are disqualified from further participation.  The disqualification agreement is a strong incentive on the part of both clients and lawyers to make the process work.


In divorce cases where the parties are prepared to work together, the collaborative process is often quicker, less costly, more creative, more individualized, less stressful, and more satisfying in its results than what occurs in most conventional settlement negotiations.  Perhaps most importantly, particularly for dissolution cases involving children, the collaborative process can provide an education for parents in how to resolve future conflicts.  For those parties who want to keep conflict low for the good of the children, and so that they can sit in the same room at their children’s graduation or civil union (nay, wedding!) ceremony, going through a collaborative divorce is basic training in avoiding an acrimonious and possibly litigious future.  And that’s healthy and financially wise for everyone involved.


John C. Hoelle is trained in the collaborative process.  Get more information about collaborative law at and find other collaborative lawyers in Colorado at


(Digital version of Out Front’s January 1, 2014 issue available here.)