When a marriage or relationship ends, the process can often be long, costly and emotionally draining. In traditional family law proceedings, separate lawyers represent the two sides; the lawyers square off on their clients’ behalf – whether in court or in other modes of dispute resolution. It’s time-consuming and unpredictable. Sure there are times when a negotiated agreement is amicably achieved. But in many cases, the outcome is left to the discretion of a judge or arbitrator. In this article, I will introduce a relatively new approach to resolving matrimonial disputes, known as “Collaborative Law.” This model of dispute resolution offers several advantages over other paths. The design incentivizes the parties to work together towards a mutually acceptable resolution. We are fortunate at this firm to have Jenny Kirshen who is trained in Collaborative Law.
The Collaborative Law Process
- Good faith written agreement: The parties and their lawyers sign an agreement where they solemnly pledge to work together to reach a settlement that is in the best interests of both parties and their children.
- Lawyers Trained: Collaborative Law is a process in which parties are represented by especially trained “collaborative lawyers”. The essence of the process is cooperation and collaboration. The negotiations might appear to the clients like having two highly skilled mediators in the room – the parties’ lawyers themselves! Now isn’t that a switch from the commonly held stereotype of family law lawyers as gladiators?
- Neutrals: The lawyers might jointly hire qualified expert “neutrals” to help gather and prepare Financial Disclosure, help strategize unconventional (or conventional) financial solutions, and help the parties create a viable Parenting Plan that prioritizes the children’s needs. negotiations.
- Greater Control: The process provides the parties with greater control over the outcome of the process. Unlike in traditional divorce proceedings, where the outcome is left to the discretion of a judge, the parties in a Collaborative Law process have the opportunity to craft a resolution that is tailored to their specific needs and circumstances. This allows for a more creative and flexible solution that is better suited to the unique needs of each family.
- Privacy: The process is private. Unlike traditional divorce proceedings, which are public, the Collaborative Law process is conducted behind closed doors. This allows the parties to maintain privacy and avoid the public embarrassment that often comes with family law proceedings.
The Elephant in the Room?
So if Collaborative Law is so great, so healthy, so solution focussed, why doesn’t everyone get on board and just use it? Hang on folks, because here comes the “kicker”: If the process breaks down and the parties are unable to reach a resolution, each side has to go to a new lawyer. Any one party can unilaterally pull the plug on the entire process. This means that both parties would have to start the process all over again, incurring additional legal costs and time. This “poison pill” equally incentivizes both sides to work together to reach a resolution. This is the true revolutionary part of this mode of Dispute Resolution.
Is it for every case?
Is Collaborative Law appropriate for every type of situation? No. Where there are safety and security issues, know that you don’t have the court back up that you might need to keep a violent partner at arms length. Where one or both of the parties are reluctant to fully disclose assets, liabilities and income, then you need a judge’s heavy hand to force compliance. Where there is an outright refusal to pay interim child and spousal support when entitlement is clearly established, then you need a court to help you survive financially.
However, there are many cases where Collaborative Law is very appropriate. You just need legal advice to help determine if your situation is appropriate to this much healthier and constructive process.
In conclusion, Collaborative Law offers several advantages over traditional family law proceedings. It is a private and flexible process that provides the parties with greater control over the outcome. Additionally, the bombshell lawyer cancellation feature incentivizes everyone involved to stick to the process and helps to ensure that the parties work together to reach a fair resolution. If you are considering separation/divorce, it is well worth considering Collaborative Law as a viable alternative to traditional divorce proceedings.
At our firm, we are proud to have on our team experienced counsel, Jenny Kirshen, who is qualified in Collaborative Law. With the strategic back up of our senior partner and founder, Gene C. Colman, we are well positioned to help our clients navigate this process to a hopefully successful and fair conclusion. We first determine if the couple is a good candidate for the process and if so, we guide you along this healthy and constructive path to sort out the issues arising from separation and divorce.