Tuesday, May 15, 2012

What if You're Uncomfortable Talking About Your Case?

If you enter into a Collaborative Law procedure, you should expect to speak up for yourself, but don't feel overwhelmed if you are not comfortable speaking to your spouse or others in that context. You will have the support of your attorney, the neutral mental health professional and possibly a coach. For context, you should keep in mind that, in litigation, you could end up speaking/testifying in court, a much less supportive environment. 

If you are in litigation, there's not too much than can be done unless you can work out a settlement without going to court.   Otherwise, you will probably have to testify.  The other side can even call you as a witness.

In a Collaborative case, there are several things that can be done.

  • First, discuss the situation with your attorney.  In Collaboration, you are normally expected to speak up and give information and your opinion on different matters.  If you are not comfortable, please discuss that with your attorney as soon as possible.  The attorney might be able to reassure you, or the attorney might help you come up with some strategies to overcome it or compensate for the feelings. 
  • You should also discuss your feelings with the mental health professional (MHP).  We use the MHP in Texas as a communication coach.  She or he can help you deal with your underlying concerns or help you learn strategies to overcome the issue.
  • You can get  a personal counselor or coach for just you.  Please let your attorney know, but there's nothing wrong with getting some help for that issue.  If you don't know a counselor or coach, your attorney or the MHP can help you find one.
  •  In some cases, your attorney can carry more of the load for speaking at meetings.  Normally, we prefer for each party to speak for himself or herself, but it is possible to work out some other arrangements.  You can discuss that with your attorney.
  • The professionals can probably come up with other  ideas on how to help you,  They meet frequently by themselves during the Collaborative process, and they can customize some solution to work in your unique situation.
 The main thing is to communicate your feelings and concerns as early in the process as possible.  Your attorney is a good starting point, as is the MHP.  The good news is that the Collaborative Law  process is much more flexible than litigation in dealing with circumstances like this. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

What if There's No Collaborative Attorney in Your County?

Although Collaborative Law is spreading throughout Texas, there are still many counties that don't have trained Collaborative professionals.  Sometimes, in those under-served counties, people facing divorce are researching how to get divorced and uncover information about Collaborative Law.  Many of those people are intrigued, but then become frustrated because no one locally does Collaborative Law.  

Why don't all attorneys do Collaborative Law?

First, you should understand that attorneys need special training in order to be able to do Collaborative Law.  We normally go through a two-day basic training in the concepts and do a lot of role-playing to help learn the techniques and start to get comfortable.  An attorney without the training, technically can claim to do Collaborative Law,but they really won't have a "feel" for how it works.  They might be able to do an easy case, but will not be able to deal with difficult issues and difficult clients.  (Collaborative is not just for the "easy" cases.)

Some attorneys haven't learned enough about Collaborative Law to see its advantages.  Sometimes clients have to educate them.

Other attorneys are very comfortable with the current way they practice and just don't want to try something new.  That's very understandable and it's probably a good decision for them.

Some attorneys have heard about Collaborative Law and are opposed to it.  That seems to be a small group and my experience is that they don't really understand how and why the process works.  I also think they will usually come around and start practicing Collaborative Law when they see the market demand for it.  It's kinda the way mediation caught on in Texas in the 1980's and 1990's.

Sometimes there hasn't been convenient training in Collaborative Law.  That's a reality.  The Collaborative Law Institute of Texas (CLI-Tx) and various local groups have sponsored training and the State Bar of Texas has joined in as well, but it's hard to find two available days when there's a training at a convenient location.  For many attorneys, it's just a matter of time.

There's also a large group of neutral attorneys who are still waiting to see if Collaborative Law will "take off".  They are gradually getting the training, so there will be a bigger pool of attorneys in the future.

So, what can you do if there's no Collaborative attorney in your county?
In  some counties, you may be able to find Collaborative attorneys in an adjacent county.  For Example, many Collaborative attorneys in Tarrant County would be willing to work with parties from Parker County, Wise County, Johnson County, Ellis County or Hood County, and possibly other places.  Several years ago, another attorney and I did a Collaborative case for a Wichita Falls couple and met for meetings in Decatur.  You will find that Collaborative attorneys are enthusiastic about the process and will go out of their way to accommodate clients.

I believe, as demand grows, there will be more attorneys getting the training so they can do Collaborative cases.

The bottom line:  Look up the closest Collaborative attorney and discuss the situation.  You will always find someone willing to help if at all possible!