Sunday, March 1, 2020

The Need for Patience

Many people take quite a long time deciding whether or not to get divorced. That's normal and probably a good thing. It is such an important decision that we shouldn't jump into it lightly.

However, once they make the commitment to divorce, many of these people become anxious to get it over with.

As unwelcome as the news is, sometimes people just have to be patient. The Collaborative Divorce process takes time and it may take time for the other party to become comfortable with the prospect of divorce, which may have been unexpected. 

So, we often have one person who was slow to decide initially who is now in a hurry, while the spouse is unprepared and slow to adjust to a new reality of divorce. The different speeds of people can create conflict.

Here are some suggestions for dealing with that friction between the parties.

1.  Most importantly, the "speedier" person needs to be able to honestly explain why speed is important.  There may be good reasons which everyone can understand.

  • The person may be moving or starting a new job.
  • The person may be in a new relationship. That's often not a popular explanation until the second party is emotionally in the same place. Patiently waiting to discuss that is usually a virtue.
  • The person may want to end the financial drain of a divorce. Divorces aren't cheap. Even a Collaborative Divorce is somewhat expensive. It's probably in everyone's best interest to not drag out the divorce with continuing meetings (which is similar to the desire to stop court hearings in litigation).
  • The person may be ready to start over fresh.
  • Any divorce is emotionally stressful (although Collaborative Divorces are usually less stressful than litigated ones). It makes sense that getting out of the stressful situation may be a priority.
  • At some point, almost everyone is ready to get out of a difficult or uncomfortable situation just to get out of limbo.  The uncertainty of a continuing divorce can be draining.
2.  Both parties need to recognize that a divorce process, even Collaborative Divorce, takes time. It cannot and generally should not be a speedy process because people need to be thoughtful about such important issues for their lives.

3.  Each party should accept that their spouse may need time to adjust or prepare. Be kind and be patient and you will be rewarded.

4.  Be sure there is time for each party to be heard. Sometimes just having an opportunity to speak up and explain things can be very beneficial. In Collaborative Divorces, we work on improving communication between and parties. A big part of that is learning to be a good listener.

5.  Finally, both parties need to recognize that their assumptions about how fast the process should work may be wrong. Each case is different and each person is different, so timing will vary from case to case.

Having experienced Collaborative professionals involved in the case should ease some of the stress, including the speed stress. You should have a good discussion with your attorney about your needs, your assumptions and your spouse's position on the speed of the case.  Together you should figure out how to balance the desires for a quicker or slower process so that neither party is over-stressed.

The overall best advice on the topic:  Be Patient!

Saturday, February 1, 2020

How to Choose a Good Collaborative Attorney for You

Once you have researched or gotten some suggestions for a possible Collaborative attorney for your divorce (or other legal issue), you need to meet with the candidate or candidates and decide which is the right one for you.

When you make an appointment to meet with the attorneys, you should plan ahead  what you want to discuss and what you are looking for. Here are some suggestions.

1.  Ask about their experience.  How long have they been doing Collaborative cases?
  • When did they start doing Collaborative cases?
  • Why do they like Collaborative Law?
  • How many Collaborative cases have they had?
  • How much training have they attended?
  • How they spoken at seminars or Collaborative meetings?
  • Are they active in Collaborative Law organizations?
  • Have they handled cases like yours in the Collaborative process?
If they have not handled many cases or been to much training, they may try to talk you out of using Collaborative Law. That's usually a sign that they are not sincere about using Collaborative Law. Try someone else.

2.  Ask about their view on Collaborative Law.  If they claim to use Collaborative but don't believe your case would be appropriate, get a second opinion. Unfortunately, some attorneys say they do Collaborative Law, but haven't been trained. Those attorneys try to draw in business and then switch clients to litigation. If an attorney says Collaborative Law is his or her first preference, that is probably a good choice.

3.  Talk about the cost for attorneys and the process.  Collaborative cases can actually save you some money, compared to costs for litigation with big fights. Having a child specialist do the preliminary work with the parents on a parenting plan is much cheaper and a better result than having two attorneys working on it simultaneously. Likewise, delegating the preliminary financial work to a single financial professional produces a better product at a smaller cost than a litigation  approach with formal discovery.

4.  Keep in mind that neither process is "cheap".  If you have significant issues, there is no bargain rate possible in any legal process.  Still, you can reduce the costs somewhat by working together as a Collaborative team.

5.  Your most important consideration:  Chemistry.
  • Make sure you feel comfortable with your attorney.
  • You need someone who listens to you well.
  • The attorney should be able to communicate well and explain things to you.
Pay attention to your gut feeling about working with the attorney.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

How to Find Information on Collaborative Attorneys

Getting Started
If you are facing divorce and either you or your spouse became interested in the Collaborative divorce process, one of your first tasks is to find a Collaborative attorney to represent and assist you.

Where to Find Names
Typically, your introduction comes from researching the Internet, receiving a referral from a friend or trusted professional or from a list of suggested names of nearby Collaborative attorneys. That can come from your spouse who may have met with a Collaborative attorney or from an attorney suggesting the names.

Get Local Information
It is getting easier to find information online about the process and about Collaborative lawyers in your area.  Make sure your searches are limited to your area. California and Texas Collaborative practitioners have some differences in how they handle cases. Be sure when you do online searches that you add in your state and city or county so you can get information and referrals that fit your situation.

What if You Get a List of Names
If your spouse goes first to see a Collaborative attorney, he or she may leave with a list of trained and active Collaborative attorneys who could be good attorneys for you to choose from.
  • That's a good thing. It does not mean that the attorneys would work against you because they are friends with the first attorney. 
  • The list is probably good attorneys who have a history of working well with the first attorney. That's good for you because it improves your chances of getting your case peacefully settled.
  • Many times, lawyers are members of a "practice group" of attorneys and other professionals who are well trained, experienced and dedicated to helping clients divorce peacefully while protecting their rights.
Can You Use Someone Not on a List?
Of course, but you want to make sure they are trained and they would be a good fit for you.

The Next Step
When you have some attorneys' names, do some research online and learn something about each one. Then you need to meet them.

For tips on choosing a good Collaborative lawyer, please see my next blog post for February 1, 2020.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Are You Ready for Divorce?

Everyone has to decide on his or her own whether they are ready for divorce -- unless their spouse takes the first step and files. In that case, there must be a response.

But, let's talk about the situation where you are trying to decide whether to file for divorce.  How do you really decide?

First, you should think it through and not just react on impulse.  There are good reasons to file, in some cases. But there are also bad reasons to file.You need to keep things in perspective. Maybe you're mad or disappointed about something. You have to decide if it is the last straw or if it's something that's not such a big deal on second thought. Unless it's a safety issue, let a little time pass before you commit to filing. Think it over.

Second, talk with a counselor. You may need an outside perspective. A good counselor can help you think about things in different ways and put them in context. Maybe you have been in denial and you should file. Maybe an event was not so terrible once things calmed down. A counselor may be able to help you figure out other ways, short of divorce, to deal with the situation.

Third, consider talking with trusted friends or family members.  Another point of view from someone who knows and cares about you can be very helpful.  They may help you solidify your resolution to act or not act. Sharing the emotional load will also help with your stress level.

Here are some Cons to consider when trying to decide whether to divorce:

1.  Divorce will disrupt family relationships. That may seem obvious, but keep in mind that relations with many other people will be affected and you may lose out on friendships with members of your spouse's family.  If there are children involved, their lives will be changed in many ways. Transitions are often difficult after divorce.

2.  Financial difficulties are common. It's difficult to run two households on the funds that had been used to pay the bills for just one. It has to be done, but there are normally cutbacks. You may have a hard time until the finances are figured out.

3.  You need to be emotionally ready.  Try to think and plan for the changes ahead. You will probably be lonely, mad and worried at different times. You will have a lot of adjustments to make.

Here are some Pros for filing.

1.  You may be  leaving an unpleasant or unsafe relationship. It may be hard to take the step, but it will be worth it in most cases. You need to protect yourself and your children.

2.  You may have just drifted apart. You may be leaving a relationship where you don't hate or dislike each other. With a divorce, you will both be better off and have a chance for a better relationship.

3.  If your spouse has started a new relationship, you need to move on, too.  You have to face facts. There's very little chance of reconciliation when a new significant other is in place.

What's the best thing you can do to help decide whether to file for divorce? 

Go see an experienced family law attorney.  Together, you should be able to come to a decision.

By the way, a good attorney will sometimes advise you to wait a while before filing. 

So, think it over. Talk it over. Take some time, if you can. Consider the advantages and disadvantages to you. Then make your decision and stay with it. If you want to stay together, you should get counseling since you have been this close to divorce.

Good Luck!