While many lawyers, counselors, financial professionals and judges are familiar with and support Collaborative Divorce, one of the greatest challenges continues to be informing the public that they have options other than litigating their divorce in court.
Pauline Tesler, one of the pioneers of the out-of-court option known as Collaborative Divorce recently authored an article for the American Bar Association about why judges love the Collaborative Divorce Process. “Today, every U.S. state and Canadian province acknowledges this practice of law. There are an estimated 20,000 trained collaborative lawyers and an estimated 50,000 or more completed cases, which keeps these cases out of the courtroom and prevents the courts from being cluttered with litigation cases. This alone can keep a judge happy and his or her caseload under control.”
Collaborative Divorce lawyers also note that very few cases that are resolved using the Collaborative Divorce process ever return to court for modifications or disputes?
Why is that? Part of the Collaborative Divorce Process includes educating parents about how to effectively co-parent and giving them tools for resolving the issues that inevitably come up between parents (issues that arise whether married or divorced). Most divorce decrees completed in the Collaborative Divorce Process have a built-in (non-court) process for working through any issues that come up in the future which includes that the parents agree to work with the neutral communications coach in the case (who also happens to be a trained counselor with special training in relationships, child development and working with parents in developing/modifying parenting plans). The ABA reported that there are over 20,000 lawyers in the United States trained in the Collaborative Divorce Process, but clients need to beware: even the states that have a Collaborative Law statute do not have a requirement that lawyers have training to be able to put themselves out as Collaborative Divorce professionals. So, it is imcumbent upon clients to educate themselves on the processes available to them for their divorce and just as in other areas of their lives, clients should think of themselves as consumers and research the lawyers they are considering to represent them in their divorce.
- Do you support the option of Collaborative Divorce?
- Have you had specific training in the Collaborative Law/Divorce Process?
- How many hours of training in the Collaborative Process have you completed?
- Are you a member of a Collaborative Divorce local practice group and the state organization?
- Do you have other Collaboratively trained lawyers that you have worked with that would recommend you to represent them in the Collaborative Divorce Process?
- How many Collaborative Divorce cases have you (the lawyer you are interviewing) succesfully completed?
If you are interested in the Collaborative Divorce Process, and the lawyer you are interviewing does not support it, find out why, and then seek a second opinion from lawyers who have had Collaborative Divorce training and have successfully completed cases in the Collaborative Divorce Process.
Sadly, some attorneys simply use the words “Collaborative Law or Collaborative Divorce” in their websites as a marketing device to bring you in, only to immediately talk you out of the Collaborative Process. Some may even say, “Yes, I practice Collaborative Divorce and support it, but ‘YOUR CASE’ is just not a good candidate for that process.” It is true that there are some clients and cases that are not appropriate for the Collaborative Process, and a few lawyers, who have had Collaborative training, are simply not well-suited to anything but litigation – they have not or cannot make what is called the “paradigm shift” of this special, high level negotiation technique called “interest-based negotiation,” which is focused on helping clients figure out what their goals and interests are then helping them develop options (and there are endless options) that will satisfactorily meet those goals. Most cases can be completed in the Collaborative Divorce Process with less emotional and financial cost, greater privacy and in a shorter period of time than cases that are handled by the litigation (court) process.
Even if a case settles prior to trial, in mediation, or “at the courthouse door,” as a trial is about to start, clients should investigate the difference in the quality of settlement in a litigated case – one with most of their money and effort focused on getting ready for a trial versus the Collaborative Divorce Process, where their money and efforts are focused on reaching the highest quality settlement they can achieve for themselves and their children, and for that goal, Collaborative Divorce is almost always the “Better Way to Divorce.”