Saturday, December 8, 2012

Case Studies: How Does Collaborative Law Work?

This is the second  in a series of stories about how Collaborative Law actually works in a divorce case.  These cases are not real cases.  The facts and stories are expanded and modified from real issues faced by families going through a Collaborative divorce.
                               The Affair Case

Facts:  This case involves a 12-year marriage and two children, ages 6 and 9.  Husband and wife both work and make a good living.  They have a house, two retirements and some cash in the bank.

Issues:  The issues here mainly revolve around the kids.  Wife knows about the affair.  She is unhappy about that, but she was also unhappy in the marriage.  She is concerned about how the girlfriend (this one and any future ones) will eventually be introduced to the children and how visitation will be shared.  Wife also feels very strongly that husband should not have the girlfriend spend the night with him, with the kids present, until husband and girlfriend marry.

Steps Followed:  The two attorneys select a neutral mental health professional (MHP) and a neutral financial professional (FP) to work with them and the parties.

1st Meeting:  At the first joint meeting, the parties  identify their goals, needs and interests and share them with everyone so the focus will be clear for future meetings.

Financial Issues:  The parties meet separately with the FP who gathers and organizes their financial information.  The FP prepares a spreadsheet and budgets for both parties.  The financial issues will be discussed at one or more joint meetings and there probably won't be too big a problem in reaching agreement.

Kid Issues:  The more difficult issues may be the ones relating to the children.  The MHP works with the parties to help the parties prepare to tell the children about the divorce and to help them come up with a plan about how to introduce new significant others for both parties to the children.  The MHP does most of the work in getting the parents to understand the need to look at this from the kids' perspective.  Visitation is probably not much of an issue, once the girlfriend issue is worked through.

Comment:  If this had gone to litigation, standard visitation schedules would have applied and the outcome on the girlfriend issues would primarily have depended on whether the Judge hearing the case considered it a big issue, regardless of how strongly the wife felt about it.  The case might have dragged out for 9 months to a year or more if the parties really got into fighting over the kids or the money.

To find out whether Collaborative Law could possibly work for you, talk with an attorney who has been specially trained in Collaborative Law.  If any attorney tries to talk you out of using Collaborative, you should always get a second opinion from a trained Collaborative attorney.