Is Collaborative Family Law right for you?
Collaborative Law can be a useful, efficient and inexpensive method to resolve a family law case. While Collaborative Law has many benefits, it is prone to abuse and parties are cautioned to engage in this process only upon careful consideration of all options.
Collaborative Law is best used in family law cases where both parties are well educated, neither is at fault and they have come to a mutual decision to end their marriage. In addition, both parties will also have come to a broad outline as to how they want to resolve children’s issues, property division and financial support but need assistance to work out the details.
When fault is at issue, resources limited, and/or in cases where a great deal of animosity exists, Collaborative Law can cause one of the parties to be at a distinct disadvantage. The “exclusionary provision” required by Collaborative Law demands that if the parties come to an impasse, the lawyers must withdraw and the process must begin anew with trial lawyers. As a result, a party can be at a distinct disadvantage if presented with a “take it or leave it” proposal where the other attorney and party threatens to end the collaborative process unless their offer is accepted.
Sometimes other professionals involved in the process (the divorce coach, financial neutral) lose their neutrality and begin to pressure a settlement in favor of one side over the other. In these situations, the party who is being pressured faces a “Hobson’s Choice”: They must accept a resolution on unfavorable terms or start over, with no option to present their side of the story to an objective tie breaker.
Most parties desiring to resolve a family law case are better off either engaging in a series of settlement conferences or going to mediation while leaving open the option to appeal their case to the Family Court as a last resort. Keeping open the option of Family Court has a leveling effect that can assure both parties are treated fairly by eliminating the possibility someone will attempt to manipulate the process and pressure a settlement on “zero sum” terms.