To many people, the word divorce is like a “four-letter word” for many different reasons. Amicable divorces do happen, but many divorces involve hostility, anger, and a whole array of negative emotions. When a couple is faced with a stressful and possibly hostile situation, they often feel that the ordeal becomes even more stressful in court. Collaborative law has become an increasingly popular way for couples to make the divorce process more efficient as well as less confrontational.
One of the most important aspects of collaborative law is its non-adversarial nature. Rather than facing off in court and trying to win over the other party, collaborative law focuses on an optimal result for both parties. Because collaborative law allows the parties to have a respectful exchange of a non-adversarial nature, it helps to eliminate some of the added stress of the divorce process. Now you might be thinking, “It seems that any divorce, no matter what method or process is used, would be adversarial by its sheer nature.” Divorce involves a couple going through the process of dissolving their marriage. While it is true that the very nature of divorce can be adversarial, the process to achieve its result does not need to be. Collaborative law focuses on achieving a result that considers the well being of the whole family.
Although some couples rely on settlement negotiations in the divorce process, it is important to note that these negotiations do differ from using collaborative law. Settlement negotiations may take place outside of the courtroom and away from the judge, but these negotiations are still done with an “I win, you lose” mentality. Collaborative law allows attorneys for each party to have an open and respectful discussion of the issues – usually with the parties being present and participating. Each side is working in good faith to reach a settlement and if that does not happen, the collaborative law attorneys withdraw. In conventional settlement negotiations, the lawyers may stay on to represent the clients in court if settlement is not reached. This aspect of collaborative law seems nuanced, but this important legal obligation to withdraw from representation if settlement is not reached, reflects the idea that collaborative attorneys are committed to helping the parties reach a reasonable settlement.
Another benefit of Collaborative Law is the ability to maintain confidentiality of personal information. In a collaborative setting, all information, except for documents that were not produced specifically for the process (i.e. tax returns and bank statements) remain out of the court’s record and private. There is also full disclosure of all information necessary for decision-making. Full disclosure helps to create an open environment, which encourages truthful and principled negotiations so the parties are able to work together more efficiently toward the best resolution.
Whenever discussing the efficiency of virtually anything, money comes into play. In the case of collaborative law, the issue is whether it will ultimately cost less than going the conventional route through the courts. It is very important to keep in mind that in divorce; everything must be looked at on a case-by-case basis. Different cases may very well yield very different results. However, using the Collaborative Law approach is generally much more cost efficient than going the route of litigation. The litigation process for divorce can involve several steps including motion, practice, depositions, and multiple court appearances. Collaborative law focuses completely on solving the problem.
The idea of divorce can be extremely stressful and it is important for any individual faced with divorce to evaluate what process will work best for him or her. Collaborative law offers a way to set aside grievances and hostility, and instead work together in a good-faith environment to reach an optimal result for both parties.
For additional information on the collaborative law process, please contact Deborah Hope Wayne at her Manhattan office.