Saturday, August 25, 2007

Vermont Collaborative Law

You may be wondering why there's a post about Vermont here in the Texas Collaborative Law Blog. The answer is that some points were raised that are just as relevant here in Texas.

There was a very nice short article about Collaborative Law in today’s Burlington (VT) Free Press. The article was really a low-key introduction to Collaborative Law and was based on the experiences of a local attorney. The author reaffirmed the advantages of using the Collaborative process and contrasted the traditional litigation system.

The article was followed by a comment from someone who apparently had had a bad experience with divorce and hadn’t bothered to read the article. The comment writer had three main complaints which should be answered. They are fairly common statements made by people who are unfamiliar with how Collaborative Law really works. This writer claimed that Collaborative Law was basically the same as no-fault divorce, which clearly shows a lack of knowledge about the subject. Here are the issues the comment raised:

1. Collaborative Law is good for short marriages with no assets or kids. Actually, anything would work for those situations. Collaborative is really more appropriate where there are significant assets or where there are some disputes regarding the children, such as dealing with custody, visitation, support, etc. Collaborative Law is a much better approach for dealing with difficult or complex issues.

2. The process is unfavorable for women with dependent children. Actually, the Collaborative process is very helpful for both parents because they both get to participate in, and control the outcome of, decision making. They don’t have a decision imposed on them by a third party or by arbitrary guidelines. Neutral expert help can be brought in to assist the parties in exploring new solutions and reaching agreements beneficial to both sides.

3. Fair deals are hard to come by. The initial problem with that statement is that "fair" is completely subjective. What’s fair to one party may seem completely unfair to the other. A better approach is to identify what each party’s goals, needs and interests are and then try to come up with ways to achieve them. Both parties can be satisfied with meeting their goals and don’t have to deal with unrealistic and unquantifiable standards such as fairness. If one’s needs are met, the results have to be satisfactory.

Hopefully, people facing the possibility of divorce will seriously investigate the possibility of using Collaborative Law to help solve their problems and not just accept someone’s superficial and erroneous assumptions about the process.

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