Saturday, December 15, 2007

How to Tell Your Spouse About Collaborative Law

It's relatively easy for a person facing divorce to discover and embrace the Collaborative Law process. If a person is just looking for confrontation, battle or retribution against their spouse, there will be no interest in Collaborative Law. On the other hand, if someone is looking for a less contentious divorce, and especially if maintaining personal relationships is important (because of children, among other reasons), Collaborative Law has a lot of attraction.

If you and your spouse have already had a discussion about needing a divorce, the question becomes how to inform/convince your spouse about the advantages of the Collaborative approach. If you haven't notified your spouse of your feelings about the marriage, then you need to do so in an appropriate way. See the posting about how to do that in my other blog, Divorce and Family Law in Tarrant County, Texas.

There are many factors for you to consider when deciding how to approach your spouse. Among them are:

  • Your spouse's personality. Does your spouse need to feel in charge? Will your spouse take suggestions well if they come from you?

  • Does your spouse trust your judgment? Is there a lot of distrust in the relationship now? You can do more directly, if there is trust. If trust is a problem, you may need less information coming from you.

  • What is your spouse's attitude about the divorce? Will he or she want to pursue reconciliation or a punitive approach? Is your spouse angry, resigned, happy or looking forward to a divorce?

  • What is the best time to bring up the subject? Are there any family or other significant events coming up that would warrant tabling the discussion until another time? Timing is important. Starting a discussion just before going to bed or as your spouse is rushing off to do something may lead to disaster.

  • Where should you discuss it with your spouse? At home? Out at a public place? With a counselor? With friends? With family around?

  • Should the information come directly from you or indirectly through friends or family? Sometimes your relationship is so strained that you may get a better reception by having someone else bring it up with your spouse.

Once you answer those questions, here are some ideas on different ways to get information to your spouse:

1. Provide written information. This could be a letter from you or your attorney. It could be a brochure about Collaborative Law or an information packet from your attorney.

2. You could bring up the topic generally, but let your spouse research it. Some people like to research for themselves or research may be the better option if trust is an issue. At the least, you should be able to provide some links and resources to your spouse.

3. You could lay out comprehensive information for your spouse to consider. Some parties want to receive a substantial amount of information and then analyze it for themselves. Others want to get a brief explanation and find out the botttom line on any issue.

4. It's usually a good idea to provide a list of qualified attorneys, unless your spouse would feel pressured. If you suggest attorneys, you should offer at least three names, or a Practice Group listing, so that your spouse will not feel like you are pushing a certain attorney or attorneys. It works well if your spouse is good at researching people on the internet.

5. You could give your spouse a book about Collaborative Law. Janet Brumley has a book about Texas Collaborative Law cases. Ron Ousky has a fairly new book, as do Pauline Tessler and Peggy Thompson. Any of those books could be helpful to someone who wants to learn about how Collaborative cases work.

6. In some cases, it may be better to find a mutually trusted relative or friend to discuss the situation with your spouse.

7. There are, or may be, some newer technologies to use to inform your spouse. Web sites and blogs are now important sources of information--you could suggest some. Some attorneys have CDs with information about Collaborative Law which they are happy to provide to you. Finally, You Tube has some short features on Collaborative Law and will certainly have more in the future.

Conclusion: It is important for you to carefully analyze the situation and your spouse's receptiveness to a discussion about Collaborative Law. A thoughtful and sensitive approach during the sometimes delicate time of initially discussing divorce and how to proceed can pay huge dividends and lead to a more peaceful process for you.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Collaborative Law Approved in Washington State

The Rules of Professional Conduct Committee of the Washington State Bar Association has recently issued an advisory opinion approving the use of Collaborative Law to resolve family law matters. The opinion is based on two requirements.

The first requirement is that the attorney must believe that the client's interests will be well served by utilizing the process. Presumably, the lawyer would not recommend it unless that were the case.

The second requirement is that there must be informed consent by the client. Informed consent, in this situation, means that there has been consideration of the client's objectives, the possible benefits and risks of the process, and the availability of other options. Again, those are normally discussed by the attorney and client before the process is chosen and begun.

This is another example of the increasing approval and spread of Collaborative Law through the United States. Clients should ask their lawyers about the advisability of using Collaborative Law in just about any kind of family law case.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Quick Tips: How to Find a Good Collaborative Attorney

Let's assume that you are facing a divorce or some other family law issue. Let's also assume that you know enough about Collaborative Law to want to use the process to resolve your issue. You certainly want to find a knowledgeable and experienced lawyer who is trained in Collaborative Law. Here are some quick tips to help you find the kind of attorney you want.

1. Ask around. That's always a good way to start. Referrals from family, friends, attorneys or other professionals can lead to an appropriate attorney. Find someone who has worked well with someone in the recent past.

2. Research attorneys on the Internet. Look beyond mere statements that the attorneys utilize Collaborative Law. Look for attorneys who discuss their feelings about Collaborative Law and who demonstrate that they have had extensive training in it. Look at attorneys' web sites and blogs to discover their credentials and attitudes.

3. When you call an attorney's office, ask about the attorney's experience and whether or not he or she has been to one or more two-day trainings in Collaborative Law. For an attorney to work effectively in the Collaborative model, it really is necessary to have had at least one two-day training, and multiple trainings improve the quality of work by the attorney.

4. When you meet with the prospective attorney, you should discuss the attorney's approach to cases generally and determine whether Collaborative is the attorney's preferred approach. Some experienced Collaborative lawyers can also utilize some of the Collaborative Law skills in non-Collaborative cases, and that is worth discussing with the attorney.

5. Ask for help on how to discuss the issue with your spouse. That is difficult to do, but a good Collaborative lawyer should be able to brainstorm with you to come up with some ideas.

Utilizing these quick tips should help you find a qualified Collaborative lawyer to help you resolve you family law issue peacefully and effectively. Good luck!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Floridians Can Collaborate

Collaborative Practice is continuing to gain official acceptance in the U.S. In October 2007, the presiding judge in the Miami-Dade Circuit Court signed an administrative order authorizing the use of Collaborative Law there. That was the culmination of work by many attorneys in that area who put a lot of effort into getting official sanction for the new process for peacefully resolving divorces and other family law issues. At about the same time, the American Bar Association ethics committee issued an opinion validating that it is an ethical way to practice law -- an opinion widely shared throughout the U.S. and in many other countries.

Texas was the first state to get a statute passed specifically authorizing Collaborative Law for use in family law cases. Information about Collaborative Law in Texas can be found at or at my web site. Slowly, but surely, the process is spreading and more and more people are able to utilize the process to peacefully resolve their disputes.