What’s So Great About Collaborative Law?
Instead of going to war and engaging in destructive litigation, Collaborative Law is a no court alternative process of solving differences. Nearly all divorcing couples have differences, but some see the good sense it makes not to play games. Collaborative parties agree to reveal all relevant information, present their concerns respectfully, and cooperate in solving issues. This team approach works particularly well in Family Law cases but also works well in many other kinds of cases. Typically, Collaborative Law results in the parties controlling the outcome of their divorce with much less stress on the children than occurs in old-style divorces.
How Does Collaborative Law Differ From Old-style Law?
Old-style divorces often proceed at a pace dictated by the courts and the attorneys. Parties often scramble under undue pressure to meet deadlines and are forced to make their lives fit the schedule of obscure court rules. Even when orders are agreed to, they often only occur after expensive and exhaustive efforts by both sides to engage in battle. Even when cooperating or mediating, both sides must constantly prepare for the possibility of eventually resolving their disputes at trial. Therefore, even parties who start out wanting to keep things simple and low key often end up with unnecessary complications, stress, and expense. In contrast, the Collaborative approach proceeds at your pace, focuses on the issues important to you, and does not require you to prepare for the possibility of trial. Old-style law extracts a high emotional cost, and often involves public disclosure of all your family’s dirty laundry and finances. The fighting in old-style divorces make it often impossible to co-parent and fosters resentment that fuels future conflicts. In Collaborative Law both parties often emerge with renewed respect for each other and with new habits and techniques to solve future problems.
Is the Collaborative Approach Better for the Children?
The old-style divorce often deals with the children according to assumptions and formulas that have little to do with the involved individuals. Judges and traditional attorneys often know nothing or little about child development and family systems. Often parents have parenting plans imposed on them. Third parties such as guardians ad litem and judges strongly influence how your children are raised and they do not have to live with their mistakes. Often outside experts are forced on the parties or the parties may engage expensive competing experts. Even in mediation, parties often “settle” for parenting plans that are less than perfect because of the costs and risks of additional litigation. The result is often that neither party takes “ownership” in old-style parenting plans and they ignore or resist following the plans. The old-style approach encourages criticism and attacks on the other parent, hurting the children in the process.
In the Collaborative approach, the focus is on cooperating and respectfully resolving parenting differences. The parties identify the important parenting issues and create unique and effective parenting plans with the assistance of their attorneys. In the Collaborative approach, the parties decide if experts are needed and share the cost of needed experts. Since both parents participate as a team, the resulting parenting plan is more likely to meet the needs of the children and is more likely to be embraced by the parents. Naturally, because the Collaborative approach involves less conflict, the children see and experience much less stress than often occurs during old-style divorces.
Is the Collaborative Process For Me?
Collaborative Law may be for you if:
- You want a respectful, fair, and open resolution
- You want to put you children’s needs firs
- You are willing to listen and consider your spouse’s need
- You are able to focus on the future and not current pain and anger
- You want to control the outcome of your divorce and not leave it up to stranger
- You want to work together, creatively to find a win-win solution to your disputes and can rise above your anger and resentment.
When people resolve their disputes Collaboratively, they often gain renewed respect for each other and their relationship changes and evolves into a healthier relationship rather than degenerating and getting mired down in hatred. People who participate in the Collaborative Process are proud of their decision to use their best behaviors to resolve disputes rather than choosing a process that encourages attacks and the throwing of mud. In old-style divorces, parties often spend only a few minutes in front of a commissioner and then receive a ruling. In the Collaborative process, the parties design their own solutions and resolve their conflicts with integrity. Collaborative attorneys facilitate the process and experts are often included to help achieve effective settlements and healthy communication. Old-style divorces often drag friends and family into the battle and align them against the other party. This alienation and taking of sides is unnecessary in Collaborative Law. Collaborative Law is for you if you value the kind of relationship you will have with the important people in your life as much as you value the amount of property/money you will receive.
Don’t Most Lawyers Negotiate Anyway?
Maybe you’ve heard that most cases settle short of trial. This is true, but there is a big difference between a negotiated or mediated settlement in old-style divorce and the process and results achieved in Collaborative Law. Old-style divorce always involves the overt or hidden threat of court action. To make this threat meaningful, both sides waste lots of money and energy preparing for court. Both sides suffer stress worrying about the outcome of the conflict and suffer emotional pain from the arrows flung in the gearing up for court. In Collaborative Law, the parties agree not to litigate or take their case to court. Instead, the parties focus their attentions on achieving a win-win solution. It is often said about old-style mediated settlements that “if both parties hate the agreement, then it is a good settlement.” That is sad, dysfunctional and unhealthy. Collaborative Law uses a relatively enjoyable process to usually achieve settlements the parties can toast and celebrate as the best solution possible for both parties.
What If the Other Side Won’t Cooperate?
Often parties assume there must be a lot of conflict when a relationship ends. Often your spouse may have been acting petty and vindictively. Often parties engage in behaviors that lead to mistrust, and the rules of old-style divorce encourage this disruptive behavior to some extent. Collaborative Law is designed to funnel this energy into creating solutions for both parties. Glenn can help assess whether Collaborative Law should work for you despite past bad behaviors, and he can help introduce uncooperative parties to the advantages of Collaborative Law. Contact Glenn to discuss how to proceed if your spouse is unfamiliar or skeptical about Collaborative Law.
Is Collaborative Law less Expensive?
Very often. Old-style divorces wastes a lot of time chasing down information and gathering evidence to tear down the other side. Old-style divorces often increases the differences and antagonisms in your case. In old-style divorces, often much time and thus money is expended on issues that could be resolved quickly and cheaply if the rules of the process were designed to encourage resolution, as they are in Collaborative Law, rather than encouraging attorneys to spend your money, as in old-style divorce. Often, old-style attorneys are worried that their practices will be less profitable if Clients demand to use Collaborative Law.
What If My Spouse is Terrible, Abusive, or Violent?
Collaborative Law is not for everyone. Court action in some cases will always be necessary to protect parties and children. However, even in some cases of domestic violence and in situations where the parties are currently engaged in bitter and nasty conflict, the Collaborative Law offers advantages over old-style divorces. Solutions are more effective if the parties recognize their role in the problem and are involved in finding a solution. In old-style divorces, after considerable expense and after increasing the fear and anger between the parties, the victim may succeed in obtaining a Court imposed “solution.” Unfortunately, the likelihood that the wrong-doing spouse will recognize the “solution” as necessary or beneficial is not very high. In contrast, Collaborative Law promotes frank and open discussion of personal shortcomings and the acceptance of reasonable resolutions. Therefore, in many cases, the Collaborative Law will achieve better results even where the parties are in high conflict.
How Does Collaborative Law Work?
Each party has his or her own family law attorney who is specially trained in Collaborative Law. Everyone signs a formal, written, agreement that states they will not resort to litigation to resolve their differences, and that if they do, the attorneys must withdraw and the parties must start over with new attorneys. This creates a huge incentive for everyone to cooperative and solve their differences. Meetings are held in an environment that encourages a relaxed and cooperative atmosphere. The parties work together to identify their respective interests and goals. Both sides obtain whatever information and education is necessary to help them make well informed decisions. Solutions are brainstormed and evaluated as to how well they meet both parties’ interests. Finally, the final agreement is translated into carefully crafted legal documents and signed by the court so there are enforceable orders.
Where Can I Learn More About Collaborative Law?
Glenn can lend you books and/or a DVD about Collaborative Law. You can get some general information about Collaborative Law at the Washington Collaborative Law website, www.washcl.org. The International Academy of Collaborative Professionals helps set standards and improve collaborative practice everywhere. Their website has good information and a good 20 minute video of actual clients who have used the Collaborative Law process. See www.CollaborativePractice.com. The easiest way to learn about Collaborative Law however is to make an appointment for a free consultation with Glenn.
Glenn is a Collaborative Law Leader
Glenn and Karen Vache were the first attorneys from Spokane to be formally trained in Collaborative Law. Glenn and John Burke were the first formally trained attorneys to have a Collaborative Law case in Spokane County. Good Collaborative Law attorneys all depend on the benefits of a practice group and Glenn has been the vice-president of Spokane County Collaborative Professionals since its inception. Glenn did not write the book on Collaborative Law, but he is the principal author and editor of a more than 150 page compilation of protocols and advise about Collaborative Law. All Collaborative Law practitioners will be forever indebted to the true pioneers of Collaborative Law, Stewart Webb and Pauline Tesler. Glenn has had the wonderful experience of breaking bread with both of these innovative thinkers and is grateful for the inspiration and insights found in their books, The Collaborative Way to Divorce and Collaborative Divorce.