Monday, October 15, 2012

What We Do and Don't Do in Collaborative Cases

If you are trying to decide whether to take a chance and try Collaborative Law, here are some things to think about.  Keep in mind that Collaborative Law may not work in every case or for everybody.  You and your attorney should carefully consider you, your spouse and the issues of the case.  Although Collaborative has a lot of attractive qualities, it may not work well in some circumstances. 

As you are analyzing your situation, here are some elements to focus on.

What We Do

  • Focus on goals, needs and interests for all the parties.  This results in a very individualized approach that calls for more thought than typically goes into a Family Law case.  Even if you end up in litigation, it will be helpful to your attorney for you to be able to articulate what's truly important to you.  In Collaborative, we spend time helping the parties identify and clearly state their goals, needs and interests, and then we rely on them to establish our targets in settling the case.
  • Use an organized gathering of information.  The parties cooperate and share information.  We focus on the essential information instead of using a "shotgun" approach.  In litigation, there are often requests for both sides to produce the same information and some information that really won't be helpful in resolving the case.
  • Incorporate unique and creative solutions.  We try out new ideas and are unlimited by traditional or standard rules and approaches.  We are not bound to follow the standard "guidelines" in the Family Code, although we may choose to use them.
  • Reach agreements while preserving relationships.  That is especially beneficial when there are children involved.  Using two well-trained attorneys and a neutral mental health professional makes this possible.
  • Improve the communication skills of the parties.   There is a great emphasis on learning to listen and communicate respectfully and effectively and the mental health professional helps the parties.
What We Don't Do

  • Use standard guidelines as the answer.  We can consider them, but we can be flexible and come up that solutions that fit.
  • Use "positional bargaining".  We don't stake out extreme positions and negotiate to reach a settlement in the middle.  We focus on the actual needs of the parties.
  • Go for 50% or some other arbitrary share of everything.  Again, we focus on the actual needs and interests of the parties.
  • Attack each other.  The parties learn to communicate effectively so they can reach agreements.  Attacking drives the parties farther apart and usually ends up costing everyone a lot more.
  • Engage in game-playing in discovery.  We identify the information we need and then arrange for the person best able to furnish it to bring it to the neutral professional to organize it.  Game-playing and deception also cost the parties more money.

 When you are deciding whether to use Collaborative Law, do some research, think about it and talk it over with your lawyer.  Maybe these points will help you decide if it would fit your circumstances.  Good luck!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Patience Please!

Sometimes, people get anxious to get their divorce over with.  That's understandable.  Divorce is stressful, difficult and often unpleasant.  It's usually not a good experience, unless you and your spouse both are still cordial with each other and both want to move fairly quickly through the process.  Even if things start out well, try not to be in too big a hurry.

Reduce Your Expectations
Wherever you are on the scale of urgency and on the quality of the remaining relationship with your spouse,  you should keep in mind the following: 

The divorce or Collaborative process doesn't work like your business.  There's input from several directions and we have emotion playing a major role.  A good business may operate efficiently and have some degree of objectivity.  Neither condition applies to divorce.

Your perspective and your spouse's perspective will probably be distorted.  You are both anxious about what is happening and your emotions will jump in and mess things up. 

There are no clear, absolute rules.  You may get tired of hearing it, but Collaborative Law involves a lot of choices and options.  We avoid relying on standardized solutions that are quick to apply, but often don't fit well.

Emotion distorts reasoning.  Divorce and Collaborative Law are not purely logical.  We have people involved, so logic is often distorted or abandoned.  Just because something is reasonable (to you), it doesn't mean that everyone will agree with it.

Divorce is rarely simple.  As easy as you might think your case should be, talk with your attorney for a reality check.  It's never simple.

What To Do? 
Be prepared.  That will help move the process along.

Be cooperative.  That makes the process easier for everyone.

Be on time.  Waiting for information or for steps to be completed can slow down everyone and create friction.

Be realistic.  Listen to your attorney and the other professionals.

Keep things in perspective.  Think about the big picture.  Make some concessions where you can so you can get what you want elsewhere.

Bottom Line:  Be Patient!