Friday, March 15, 2013

Is Collaborative Law Safe?

Yes.  Divorce is usually a difficult and stressful process.  There is a competition for scarce resources, i.e. money and assets.  The parents no longer have unlimited access to their own children.  It is often a very emotional experience which is sometimes heightened by one or both of the attorneys.  Domestic violence is something that all Collaborative attorneys are concerned about and watch for.  Given that the parties meet and work out agreements face-to-face, some people may wonder if Collaborative Practice is safe. 

While each case must be evaluated on its own merits and facts, here are some reasons why Collaborative Law is usually a very safe way to work out a divorce or other family law issue.

1.  Experience has shown that working with a therapist helps defuse tension.  In Tarrant County Collaborative cases, we normally bring in a therapist at the very beginning.  The neutral therapists we work with have been very effective helping to referee conflicts, teach better communication skills and be observant for possible problems.  If and when a problem arises, the therapist stops us and helps resolve the issue before it gets out of hand.

2.  The financial professionals we use are neutral and objective.  They do not take sides and they are viewed by the parties as working for both parties, not trying to gain an advantage for one spouse or the other.  That reduces tension.

3.  The professionals, including attorneys, are trained to be less abrasive, better communicators.  That's a major contrast to how some attorneys act in litigated cases.  Sometimes attorneys get to be a big part of the problem by being very obnoxious to the other party.  In Collaborative cases, all the professionals are very aware of how they are coming across to the other side and they do their best to help the process, not stir up anger.

4.  Collaborative Law allows the parties to avoid escalating tensions that arise from sending demanding letters and making threats back and forth.  Legally, there's no need for such behavior.  Discussions can proceed in a civilized manner, and progress can still be made.  In terms of outcome, keeping tensions as low as possible will make it easier to come to an agreement.

5.  In Collaborative cases, the parties don't go to court or testify until the divorce is "proved-up" at court at the end.  That means that there will be less stress, less conflict and less compulsion to be oppositional.  Instead of trying to "win" issues in a competition, the parties work together to come up with solutions for the needs of both parties.

6.  The parties aren't left to try to negotiate on their own.  In fact, that is discouraged strongly.  Experience has shown that the parties behave better when other people are around.  When there are meetings to discuss the facts, to analyze the records or to work on coming up with acceptable solutions, there will always be two or three or (sometimes) four professionals to help manage and direct the discussions.  That prevents the parties from falling back into their old patterns of arguing.

7.  The Collaborative professionals help the parties not waste time and money on unhelpful work.  In Collaborative cases, the parties can focus in on what they need to know to work out a settlement.  They don't go back and try to prove fault or assign blame.  They really move forward and focus on the future.  The gathering of information by itself is incredibly better focused than the way it is done in litigation.  Collaborative Practice is a much more efficient process for everyone.


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