Collaborative Law – A dignified way to divorce
What is Collaborative Law and am I a good candidate. First of all, Collaborative law is a more civilized way to get divorced. However, not everyone is a good candidate. You shouldn’t try the Collaborative Law way if you are doing it for the wrong reasons. It won’t work if you are doing it:
- Solely to save money. Just because it may seem to be a more cost effective way to get divorced doesn’t mean that you should do it for that reason. If Collaborative Law fails, you and your spouse must get two new attorneys and start all over again. Collaborative Law attorneys cannot represent you in a contested matrimonial should you fail to reach a resolution. This means that your fees will actually be higher.
- Family Power Structure. Solely because you believe that your spouse is weaker than you and you can bully your way to a better settlement, is no reason to choose Collaborative Law. This attitude will shine through and Collaborative Law will fail. If it should fail, a settlement in a litigated case will be far less likely. Also, you have increased the time from the time you start to when you are ultimately divorced and significantly increased your legal fees.
- Trustworthiness. If you or your spouse are pathological liars, have alcohol or drug abuse problems, or have concealed other important problems from each other.
- Secret Financial Information. Because you or your spouse are hiding money or property and believe that this method of divorcing will allow you to continue to conceal assets/money is generally a recipe for failure. If the “secret” is discovered, the party guilty of hiding the financial information will never be trusted and a trial with the concurrent increase in legal fees is almost inevitable
Collaborative Law is not for everyone. Good attorneys will attempt to screen you as a potential Collaborative Law client and will tell you if they have any reservations about your situation and Collaborative Law as it may apply to your situation or, if they don’t feel they wish to represent you. If they don’t believe that you are a good candidate, in all probability, it will neither save you money nor succeed. You pay a lawyer for advice; you do not pay him to act as a mere scriber and draw up documents that you want drawn.
So why would you want to try Collaborative Law?
There are certainly enough benefits. Those benefits include:
- Privacy. All the Collaborative Law meetings take place in the two attorneys’ offices on a schedule that fits in with your schedule. In traditional litigation, the court requires status conferences to insure that the case is m oving along. Most such conferences take place at 9:30 a.m . and the court tells you when you must be there. There is no privacy. Anyone in the courtroom may hear the questions and answers as the judge asks questions about what the problems are, if any, and whether the case is moving along according to the judge’s schedule. If anyone is present in the courtroom that you know, they may hear about your divorce and problems that you would prefer remain strictly confidential.
- A result that is tailored to the parties. A judge may decide to grant the wife the power tools and the husband the sewing machine. In short, his decision may not make either party happy.
- Cost. A litigated matter will definitely cost more money. Every time you appear in court with your attorney, your bill will go up. Each status conference will add an hour or more of time to your bill. Many times, nothing is resolved at these conferences. They will still be required. Both you and your spouse must be present; your presence is not optional. If you work, you will have to take off at least during the morning. If you take care of children, you will have to get a babysitter. A litigated case will certainly inconvenience you considerably more that a Collaborative matter and require more time to be expended by your attorney as well as yourself.
- Immediate Family Problems. A litigated matter puts pressure on and causes stress to all family members. There may be fighting, fighting that makes the living situation intolerable. In litigated matters, the parties frequently tell the children “their story” outside of the presence of the other spouse. The parties frequently have different ideas of what should be said to children and how it should be presented. In collaborative law, the parties agree on what the children should be told and how it is to be presented, and if they can’t agree, a “coach”, an independent person agreed to by the parties can be brought in to help them reach a unified position. It is far better for the children and the parties.
- Future Relationship. How will your relationship with your spouse be in the future? Frequently, in litigated matters, the relationship of the parties deteriorates to the point where they will not attend important/significant family functions if both are invited. This makes anniversaries, the children’s weddings and birthdays, and other important events stressful affairs. Generally speaking, with Collaborative Law, both parties can actually sit next to each other at these types of functions. It certainly makes it easier on the children in that they are not forced to pick one party or the other to attend.
Obviously, the ultimate choice is yours to make. There are certainly situations where Collaborative Law is contraindicated. If none of the possible negatives seem to exist, the benefits of a Collaborative divorce will be appreciated for many years to come.