Is Collaborative Law The Right Process To Resolve Your Family Law Case?

Collaborative Law has reached a threshold where it has become a common dispute resolution process for many families going through divorce. Is Collaborative Law something you should consider?

Collaborative Law, or Collaborative Practice, is a different kind of dispute resolution process from the typical court controlled process. The court process is adversarial, it assigns blame and fault and make orders assigning responsibility and punishment. It is often a lengthly, difficult, and expensive process.

Collaborative Law uses a different dispute resolution process called interest based negotiation. Interest based negotiation was developed by the Harvard Program on Negotiation and seeks to reach a “win-win” solution for everyone involved in the dispute. It is often used to help resolve disputes between nations, in politics and now in the realm of Family Law.

Here are four aspects of Collaborative Law that you should consider in deciding whether or not to choose the collaborative process to resolve your Family Law dispute.

  1. Collaborative Law is future oriented: When parties to a legal dispute, whether they are two separate nations, different political parties, or a family involved in divorce, are required to have a future relationship, Collaborative Law will likely be very helpful. Professionals engaged in Collaborative Law will model respectful, clear, and effective communication for the parties involved in the dispute. This is a skill that the parties can bring with them to resolve future issues that may arise. Most families, like nations and political parties, are required to have a continuing relationship moving forward, regardless of the fact of the divorce. On the contrary, a party who wins a lawsuit, just like a nation who wins a war or a political party who wins an election, will almost certainly enable other party to attempt to “get even”.
  2. Collaborative Law uses the most qualified, most affordable professionals. Collaborative Law recognizes the different benefits lawyers, therapists and financial professionals can bring to help resolve a dispute. The lawyers will do lawyer work: help with problem solving, drafting agreements and orders, and model effective and ethical problem solving skills. Therapist will help create a parenting plan and a neutral financial professional will work with the parties on a division of asset and support issues. These professionals will save the parties lots of money. In courthouse litigation, everything is lawyer driven and it is the most expensive and time consuming way to resolve a problem. Each side will retain their separate therapists and financial professionals, and call them “Expert Witnesses” when the case is called for trial.
  3. Client Control: It’s your divorce. If you want to maintain control of the decision making process, Collaborative Law is the right process for you. No decisions are made unilaterally. All decisions are made by the team based upon the best interests of the entire family. No judge will tell you what to do, no Guardian will be recommending to the court something that you feel may not be in your child’s best interest, and no lawyer will force you to provide sworn testimony regarding the intimate details of your life.
  4. Privacy. If you are a private person, and even if you are not, you may not want all of the intimate details of you personal family life filed in the Clerk of Court’s office where it will be published for the entire world to see. Collaborative Law happens “behind closed doors” and the only documents filed in court are generic pleadings and final order.

I have found that nearly 80% of our families engaged in “contested” (adversarial) family law disputes could have benefited greatly by Collaborative Law. Most often families that go through nasty family law litigation never learn how to solve their own problems and are left without any skills once the case is over and the lawyers, guardians and judges are no longer engaged. Nasty and difficult divorces hurt children, they take money from people who need it and give it to lawyers, and do very little to help a suffering family.

Think twice before you hire that litigator: you have a long life to live and your soon to be ex spouse will likely not be going anywhere!

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