Abraham Lincoln said: “Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. Point out to them how the nominal winner is often a real loser–in fees, expenses, and a waste of time. As a peacemaker the lawyer has a superior opportunity of being a good man. There will still be business enough.”
Do you want an attorney who is a problem-solver or a trouble-maker?
That can make all the difference in whether you and your ex have a peaceable divorce or a war. If you and your spouse have children or shared friends or extended family, problem solving can make the difference in whether you are able to successfully co-parent and/or continue those mutual relationships. And, while few divorces are inexpensive, you can be guaranteed that going to war (litigation/Court) will be much more costly to your finances and your relationships than the problem solving approach. Choosing an attorney that is a problem-solver versus a trouble-maker may make the difference between whether you have a constructive settlement or protracted, destructive litigation.
Andrea Vacca, a family law colleague, has written an article that articulates this question beautifully and offers insight to potential clients about ways to consider who they want to hire to represent them in this most trying time in their lives. She explains that there is a difference between the two types of attorneys and couples who are facing divorce need to think seriously about what type of case and lawyer they want to have.
Here are some questions to ask yourself (and the lawyer you are interviewing):
- What are my (our) goals?
- What are my (our) interests?
- Are preserving relationships (such as our relationships between me and my spouse and our children, our extended families and/or friends) important to me/us?
- How will our choice of divorce process promote those goals?
- Will litigation/court promote those goals? If so, how? If not, how will it not?
- Will Collaborative Divorce promote those goals? If so, how? If not, how will it not?
- How will Court/litigation HELP heal our situation?
- How will Collaborative Divorce HELP heal our situation?
- Will litigation/court pit me and my spouse against each other? Is that our only way to move forward in our lives?
- Will the Collaborative Process pit me and my spouse against each other or will we spend time working on our problems as a team?
- If we use the litigation process, what proportion of our money and time will be spent on preparing for hearings and trial versus settlement?
- What is the typical cost of mediation, including the lawyers and the mediator?
- What proportion of our money and time will be spent on hearings and trial versus settlement in the Collaborative Divorce process?
- Will mediation be necessary if we use the Collaborative Process?
- Is there a difference in the quality of settlements that are reached “at the Courthouse door” (as we are commencing or have commenced trial) versus settlements that are reached in the Collaborative Process? What would be the difference?
- How will the quality of settlement we reach affect our children and our future relationships?
Finding a lawyer that will support your belief system in the ending of your marriage is one of the most important decisions you will ever make; it will affect not only your divorce but the effect it will have on your children and family for generations.