Collaborative Divorce Participation Agreements

Susan O'Toole Edmonds Lawyer

Last  month, this blog author discussed the basics of the Collaborative Law Process. In this entry, the details around the Collaborative Divorce Participation Agreement signed by the divorcing parties, their attorneys, and the other professionals involved in the case is discussed, as the Participation Agreement provides the parameters of the process.

Collaborative Law Participation Agreement – The Basics

Collaborative Divorce Participation Agreements generally have several discrete sections: 1) a discussion of the foundations of the collaborative law process; 2) expectations and agreements for communication between the parties; 3) what type of disclosure of information is expected and agreed upon between the parties; 4) sections related to the professionals involved in the process and how they will work together; 5) sections on the waiver of the court proceedings and emergencies; 6) a section related to actions taken related to any coercive or violent relationship between the parties; 7) sections related to what happens if the collaborative divorce process is terminated; and 8) various provisions related to confidentiality and enforceability of the agreements.

Sections of Participation Agreement Explained

The Sections of the Participation Agreement each serve an important part in ensuring the parties, the collaborative law attorneys, and the other professionals working on the case have clear guidelines and expectations about the process and any of its potential outcomes. The Participation Agreement is written specific to each case, so all involved understand all the aspects of the process relevant to the parties, their children, assets, and other important issues in the dissolution. These are briefly explained as follows:

  1. Discussion of Foundations of Collaborative Process: Such expectations as dealing honestly and respectfully toward each other, working together, and addressing the needs and well-being of both parties are covered in this section. Expectations for keeping any children of the parties protected from harm from the collaborative process and dissolution are covered as well.
  2. Communication Between the Parties: Here the parties agree to proceed in good faith, and to share and listen to each other’s goals and concerns in a respectful manner, without threats. The parties agree to work toward compromise, but with an understanding that each party’s attorney may be consulted with any questions or concerns.
  3. Disclosure: The parties here agree to fully disclose all information pertinent to the dissolution requested by the professionals involved, including financial records, expenses and budgets, and tax returns. The parties further agree to supplement this information, and if misrepresentation or other knowing failure to disclose is found, the collaborative process must be terminated.
  4. Professionals Involved in the Process: These sections discuss which professionals are needed in the collaborative process for the particular parties’ needs. This can include financial professionals, a divorce coach, child specialists, property appraisers, or any other professional related to the needs of the parties in their dissolution. How the professionals will work together, as well as their communication processes are also often covered in this section of the Participation Agreement.
  5. Waiver of Court Proceedings: The Collaborative Law Statute, RCW 7.77, prohibits the attorneys involved in the collaborative law process from representing the parties in later divorce litigation if the collaborative process fails unless an emergency situation arises, and this section of the Participation Agreement makes that clear to the parties.
  6. Coercive or Violent Relationships: Although the collaborative process is very often successful with parties who are in negative and emotionally difficult situations, the collaborative attorneys involved in the process must ascertain if the relationship between the parties has a violent or coercive history or component. If this type of relationship exists, the collaborative process is only allowed to move forward if the attorneys reasonably believe they can adequately protect the safety of both parties in the process. This is spelled out in the agreement, and the parties agree they understand this.
  7. Termination of the Collaborative Process: The Participation Agreement usually has several sections delineating what happens if the process is terminated, including when it may be terminated and for what reasons, the protections remaining if the process terminates, and withdrawal or termination of a lawyer.
  8. Confidentiality and Enforceability of Agreements: These sections describe the confidentiality agreements between the parties, the attorneys and other professionals, and also the enforceable rights and obligations of the parties pending settlement, including restrictions on transfer of assets, limits on expenses, and honoring each other’s privacy.

Benefits of Collaborative Divorce

Spouses who have gone through the Collaborative Divorce process in their dissolutions report higher levels of satisfaction with the outcome of their dissolution, better relationships with their spouses, and being able to co-parent together in more positive and healthy ways for their children. Collaborative Divorce is a holistic approach that provides an extremely structured way for spouses to work through difficult conflicts with the help of highly trained professionals, and the underpinning of this process is the Participation Agreement between the parties. Parenting issues, divisions of assets, spousal support—all aspects of dissolution can be handled in the collaborative law process, and the success rate is very high when trained professionals engage in the process with the clients and their families. Collaborative Divorce is also generally much less expensive than litigation and trial, and the outcomes are voluntary and not imposed from the top down, as when a judge hands down a decision.


To learn more about Collaborative Divorce Participation Agreements, please contact Beresford Booth at or by phone at (425) 776-4100.

BERESFORD BOOTH has made this content available to the general public for informational purposes only. The information on this site is not intended to convey legal opinions or legal advice.