Friday, November 15, 2013

We Disagree Too Much to do Collaborative!

I recently heard this as a reason an attorney gave for not using Collaborative Law for a divorce.  Obviously the attorney was not really committed to using the Collaborative process to resolve disputes in divorces and other cases and I have to respectfully disagree.

1.  Litigation won't make the disagreements go away.  They just won't be resolved as well as they could have been in Collaborative. There will likely be more conflict.
  • Without lawyers trained in problem-solving through Collaboration, the parties will probably have attorneys who go into the traditional steps of conflict-enhancing litigation.  There will probably be much less cooperation between the attorneys as compared to Collaborative attorneys. 
  •  In addition, litigation doesn't provide for a therapist or a neutral financial advisor to help the parties create solutions and minimize conflict.
  • When the parties can't reach agreements, the issues will probably ultimately be decided, at least in part, by standard guidelines and the judge's own biases.
2.  There's really not "too many disagreements" to use Collaborative.  There are simply better tools to use than litigation provides to handle all the problems. As long as the parties are open, honest and committed to reaching an agreement, Collaborative can be effective.

3.  Every family law case has a lot of disagreements.  We are talking about dispute resolution processes.  There's no reason to limit it to the easiest cases.  The process is not easy.  It requires patience and dedication, but it is a flexible framework that can handle very difficult and unusual cases.  I have seen the Collaborative Law process successfully resolve the following difficult issues:
  • Adultery
  • Job loss
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Mental disorders
  • Conflicts over parenting styles
  • Alienation allegations
  • Custody fights
  • Long-term illnesses
  • Relocation
If an attorney or anyone else ever tells you that there are "too many disagreements" to use Collaborative Law, you need to get a second opinion from an experienced Collaborative lawyer.  Undoubtedly, the Collaborative lawyer will disagree with that assessment!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Why Do a Collaborative Divorce? Types of Cases

There are many different reasons why people may choose to use the Collaborative process for their divorce.  Aside from the advantages of the process, there are certain types of issues that could really benefit from the flexibility and privacy afforded by Collaborative law.  Here are some examples.

  • A child with special needs.  Courts usually try to do a little extra, but you are still generally turning over the decision-making to a judge who will try to make an order that is a slight variation from the normal, standard provisions.  In Collaborative, we can bring in a neutral expert to the process.  We would also have the mental health professional who can work with the neutral expert to help the parties come up with an appropriate order.
  • Parents with issues.  Unfortunately, the adults sometimes have problems with alcohol, drugs or anger, among other things.  Various addictions may require special help that might not be well dealt with in the court system, and in Collaborative cases, we can work at our own pace, in privacy, until the issues are under control. Again, we can bring in extra help, if needed.
  • Stay-at-home parents.  If one parent has been off the career track for a number of years, it may be very difficult and time consuming to find a new career and job. There needs to be some way to provide extra help for that transition.
  • Professionals.  Many doctors, lawyers, engineers, CPAs and others don't want their personal issues laid out in public documents.  Public figures, including politicians, are in the same situation. Collaborative divorce gives them the protection of a private process that works outside the court system until the divorce is final.
  • Too busy for court?  Some people have really busy or inconvenient schedules.  While all of us would like to think we are indispensable, there are some people whose absence at work really creates problems.  They need the ability to meet at non-traditional times (not at court at 9 a.m. or 1:30 p.m., for example).  Collaborative meetings can be convened at any time on any day when all the parties can get there.
  • Convenient meeting place.  The courthouse may not be the most convenient place to meet.  In Collaborative cases, we usually meet at the attorneys' offices, but I have had several cases where we met at the mental health professional's or the financial professional's office.
  • Need non-standard visitation or child support.  It is much easier to get creative with visitation or child support in Collaborative cases.  In litigation, the guidelines are almost always used.  In Collaboration, the guidelines are just an option and we usually consider several options.
If you are facing a divorce and any of the above situations apply to you, please look further into using Collaborative Law.  It will probably be your best avenue for meeting your needs.