Thursday, May 22, 2008

Hold Your Horses!

One of the biggest challenges in Collaborative Law is impatience. Sometimes, after the parties learn about the process and commit to using it, they suddenly grow very anxious to have the matter resolved. Even when the attorneys and other professionals explain the standard approach of five steps (set goals, gather information, identify issues, brainstorm and negotiate to resolution), some parties almost immediately forget about the first four or five steps and want to start the final negotiations without doing some or all of the preliminary steps.

Even when the parties and professionals spend valuable time establishing and clarifying the goals, needs and interests of each party, they are often quickly forgotten. Being very close to the issues, the parties often insist that they want the process to be completed in a very short time. They become very impatient and are often motivated by wanting to save money by "streamlining" meetings and taking shortcuts. The easiest and most logical way to do that is to independently come up with a suitable settlement. The party creating it usually becomes convinced that the plan is not only logical and inevitable, but it is the best for both parties. Occasionally, that is true, but more often the plan is unacceptable to the other party. Usually, the plan is conceived by one party only and is evaluated from only one perspective. It becomes a very uncollaborative process as one or both parties become motivated by quickly obtaining a result and finishing the settlement.

The Collaborative process works best when the parties follow the standard five steps. Sometimes that slows down the process from one side's perspective, but the other side is usually happy with the pace and especially with having input into the information gathering and the decision-making. It can be very helpful for the professionals to repeatedly remind the parties of the need to follow the standard structure of the process. Another helpful idea is for the professionals to explain how long the alternative, the litigation system, takes in common types of cases in that locale. A three-month long Collaborative case sounds quick when compared to a litigated case which usually takes about a year or more in Tarrant County, Texas.

A solution is much more likely when both parties contribute at every stage. That often means that one party believes the process moves too slowly. That cannot be avoided since the process will only move as fast as the slower participant. Usually, one party is moving more slowly through the emotional stages of a divorce and there is not any way to force the party to speed up the processing of the feelings and experiences.

If one party pushes the process and the other party to speed up a settlement through Collaborative Law, the result will often be complete failure of the effort to reach an agreement. If the parties will slow down, adjust their expectations and just work with the Collaborative professionals, they generally will reach an agreement.

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