If you are considering separation or divorce or are involved in a separation or divorce would you be interested in a “Better Approach?”

Consider a Collaborative Divorce.

Why consider a Collaborative Divorce? With this method parties are able to:

  • Protect children
  • Lower costs ~ save money
  • Maintain control over outcomes
  • Save time
  • Lower stress
  • Get better results

What is Collaborative Divorce?

Collaborative Family Law or Collaborative Divorce is a relatively new approach to resolving issues related to separation and divorce in a respectful, dignified, private manner that results in better outcomes. The process began in the early 1990s when Stu Webb, a very experienced attorney from Minnesota became so frustrated with the traditional litigation approach that he considered closing his family law practice altogether. Although not all cases are problematic, far too many become hostile, stressful, costly and time consuming.

Litigation, the traditional method of addressing divorce issues, encourages taking positions, fueling anger and hostility and closing doors to open communication and cooperation. Tragically children are often caught in the middle and harmed as a result. Costs spiral and cases drift on for years in a public forum. The collaborative approach avoids all of these pitfalls. The parties have an opportunity to participate in a result that considers their individual interests and that is more acceptable to all. Often they are able to work out results that are a win for everyone.

In the traditional legal system the goal is to reach a legal result that is as fair as the court can fashion under the law. Often the outcome dictated by the law is not in the best interest of anyone involved and no one is satisfied with the result. When families work collaboratively it is often possible for everyone to receive more of what they need.

Collaborative Family Law is interest based, not position based. The following example is the best explanation of the goal of collaborative law and an interest versus position based approach I have heard. I recently attended a workshop given by John McElwee, a national expert, who explained the concept this way:

If two sisters have six (6) oranges and both sisters want the oranges typically a parent (or the court) steps in and settles the argument by giving each sister three (3) oranges.

If the problem is approached collaboratively, the sisters (with their lawyers) sit down together and discuss why each sister wants the oranges. In this example one (1) sister wants the peels to make zest. The other sister wants the pulp to make cakes. With the traditional solution, sister number one (1) makes zest from three (3) oranges and throws away the pulp. Sister number two (2) makes cakes with three (3) oranges and throws away the peel. In a collaborative meeting they learn they can work together and each can get the benefit of all six (6) oranges. They have a win-win result.

The same principal works in resolving divorce related issues such as time sharing with children, dividing marital property, sharing expenses, covering necessary cash flow for the family, and deciding what to do with the marital home. Often when there is respectful, open discussion of each person’s concerns and goals, solutions can be found that are far more acceptable than a division or distribution by the court made without knowledge of or consideration of the real interest of the parties.

The collaborative approach concerns itself with the interests of the individuals involved rather than having them commit to initial positions. Time is taken to explore all solutions the parties and their attorneys can think of. Often creative approaches are discovered that provide a result that each party is more satisfied with. People who have a say in an outcome are more willing to live by and with the result. Far fewer problems occur later.

Parties who engage in the collaborative process hire lawyers trained in this method. The parties and the attorneys commit not to go to court. Participation and the production of information in good faith are required. All interactions must be civil and respectful. Plans to protect the children and to provide for their needs are a fundamental consideration.

With the high rate of divorce prevalent in American society today, the courts are overburdened with divorce, custody and property distribution cases. The adversarial process is lengthy, negative, stressful and expensive. Cases frequently drag on for three to ten years; costs escalate, often reaching tens of thousands of dollars. Even more devastating is the toll the process takes on the children when resentments and anger become entrenched. Respect and civility are often lost. Children are surrounded by ongoing tension and negative painful emotions with devastating consequences.

The collaborative divorce process takes less time, is far more efficient, and actively focuses on protecting the children and preserving respect and civility between the divorcing spouses. The end results crafted by the parties are more acceptable. Each person involved completes the process more intact and capable of moving forward with a positive outlook.

If you are contemplating divorce or know others who may be, consider investigating the advantages of the collaborative approach.