For those of us who practice collaborative divorce, a description of its
benefits can take pages and pages of text -- especially for those of us
who have been representing clients in divorce litigation for many years.
We have experienced first-hand the frustration, anger, hurt and disillusionment
that often accompanies the traditional litigation process. Here is a summary
of SOME of the benefits of the collaborative process:
. Couples who decide to divorce do not make the decision quickly. It has
been a long-term process which has involved a lot of thought and discussion.
Once the decision to divorce has finally been made, many clients are disappointed
at the length of time it can take to resolve the dissolution action and
finally be divorced. In litigation cases, the parties are subject to the
court's calendar. Divorce cases are often set several months in advance,
and then may be continued if set behind other civil cases and criminal
jury cases. The delay in actually getting to court may have a negative
financial and/or emotional impact on the parties.
In collaborative cases, the parties schedule their meetings at times that
suit their schedules. They produce documents and records, and respond
to inquiries informally during 4-way meetings (parties and counsel) with
open dialogue. There are no time restraints, and the parties are free
to work through the dissolution or post-dissolution issues on their timetable.
A view of the whole picture
. In a litigation-track divorce, parties work independently of one another,
and his/her case is developed from information that he/she knows or has
specifically requested from the other party. In such cases, parties do
not always see the broad picture until they are close to, or at, trial.
In collaborative cases, the parties meet in 4-way meetings, and open dialogue
is encouraged so that parties and counsel understand all of the issues.
This open dialogue saves time in that cases are developed with all pertinent
facts known. It also saves attorney fees in that formal discovery requests
(Interrogatories and Request for Production of Documents) are not necessary.
Parties who know the whole picture are able to carefully consider the
information and make informed decisions about their future.
Command your own destiny
. It is true that a party may "command his own destiny" in litigation
track cases through settlement negotiation and alternative dispute resolution
(ADR), i.e. mediation. However, in litigation track, such negotiations
and ADR occurs toward the final stages of the case, and often just before
the trial setting. And if a case is not settled prior to trial, it is
subjected to the Court for complete decision making. When a case is tried,
the parties have no control over the court's decisions, as those decisions
are at the discretion of the court. In collaborative cases, parties begin
4-way meetings right away and decisions can be made during the process
after presentation and collaboration of the facts and issues. The collaborative
process allows the parties to have a say in their future and the future
of their children from the very beginning.
Maintain respect and civility
. Parents who are divorced are forever linked to the ex-spouse. They will
see each other at times such as sporting events, graduations, weddings
and grandchildren's birthday parties. Parents who are respectful and
civil are often welcomed by the children at these events, while parents
who are bitter and angry are not.
Collaborative practice allows the parties to divorce in such a way that
respect and civility is maintained. The parties jointly make decisions
about custody, parenting time and division of debts and assets, but they
also discuss communication techniques and "rules of the game,"
such as when significant others will be introduced to the children, same/similar
parenting rules, punishment guidelines and commitments to avoid negative
statements about the other in the presence of the children.
. Last, but certainly not least, is the savings of attorney fees and litigation
costs. Collaborative practice does require legal services such as conferences
with clients, attendance at 4-way meetings, review of financial documentation
and information, preparation of summaries and proposals, and preparation
of final Agreements and Decrees. However, there are many costs that are
not incurred, such as deposition fees, exhibit preparation (only for the
hearing to be continued and exhibits redone at a later date), custody
evaluations, discovery requests, and expert witness fees.
If "experts" are needed, collaboratively trained professionals
(i.e. child and financial specialists) are engaged as neutrals to work
with the parties to resolve issues. The costs related to these specialists
are, more often than not, less expensive than hiring an expert witness
such as a custody evaluator or a forensic accountant.
The time effectiveness of collaborative practice results in financial savings
to the parties because marital bills and expenses are addressed early
in the process. Parties often save money to service credit card debt and
marital residence expenses during the divorce process because collaborative
cases can be finalized sooner than the matter can be tried and resolved
by judicial decree.
If you are interested in knowing more about the collaborative process,
contact any member of our collaborative practice team. We would be glad
to answer any questions you may have!