The American Bar Association defines collaborative law as follows:
Each person retains his or her own trained collaborative lawyer to advise and assist in negotiating an agreement on all issues.
All negotiations take place in "four-way" settlement meetings that both clients and both lawyers attend.
The lawyers cannot go to court or threaten to go to court. Settlement is the only agenda. If either client goes to court, both collaborative lawyers are disqualified from further participation.
Each client has built-in legal advice and advocacy during negotiations, and each lawyer's job includes guiding the client toward reasonable resolutions. The legal advice is an integral part of the process, but all the decisions are made by the clients. The lawyers generally prepare and process all papers required for the divorce.