Bringing Collaborative Law Principles to All Divorces
Feb. 24, 2014
I'd love to see, at some time in the not-too-distant future, a world in which divorces are primarily settled through Collaborative Law. While that might be challenging especially for lawyers who pride themselves on the ability to be bulldogs. I do think that it is possible for more divorces to bring Collaborative Law principles into the mix.
A page on the Collaborative Law Institute of Texas website, giving a definition of family law, identifies a list of attributes that help define Collaborative law and its advantages over a traditional, litigated divorce including cost-consciousness, personalization, confidentiality, convenience, and focusing on what the family, especially children need.
The list is a neat summation of Collaborative Law principles and all family lawyers should keep them in mind, regardless of whether they are helping a couple settle a divorce Collaboratively or fighting on one party's behalf in a courtroom.
One of the most important things family lawyers can do to help their clients is to try to stay out of the courtroom. While litigation itself is expensive and unpredictable, preparing for litigation is also expensive on its own. By helping a client reach settlement before the case goes to the courtroom, a lawyer is saving a client literally thousands of dollars, and the lawyer can earn that back by helping more clients reach settlements, rather than being tied up in one courtroom arguing one case.
By staying out of the courtroom, you can also capture some of the other advantages that Collaborative Law provides you. Once your case enters the courtroom, you are giving the presiding judge the power to determine how your assets are split up, how much time you will be able to spend with your children, and what you will pay or receive in child support and alimony and you are doing so on the court's schedule, in a public proceeding, where a personalized solution is hard to come by.
If you can't avoid the courtroom, you can at the very least make sure you are focused on a solution that will best meet the children's needs. Divorcing couples sometimes have very different ideas about what this might be, of course in court, it will be up to the lawyers to best articulate each client's point of view, so frank and honest communication between client and lawyer is essential.
The best way to reap the benefits of Collaborative Law is, of course, to opt for a Collaborative divorce. But if you find yourself in a traditional divorce and want to adhere to as many Collaborative principles as possible, try to propose a fair settlement and emphasize how much control and say-so divorcing couples lose once they enter the courtroom, not to mention the extra costs and delays in having your case heard by the judge.