Parties to divorce face hard choices and often, emotional trauma. As divorce lawyers, we are tasked with supporting people who have been stripped of the life they once knew and are required to absorb that loss while facing monumental decisions that will have lasting impact on their children and their future; however, our traditional adversary system is often unable to address their real needs and concerns.
While there will always be those parties whose dispute must be resolved by a judge, the vast majority of divorcing couples would rather have the power to determine their own fate even when they lack the skill to achieve that on their own. Some parties just need some basic guidance about the law and some “talking points” to be able to sit down with their spouse and work through the issues on their own. Others need a neutral voice to help facilitate compromise and for them, mediation is a great alternative. But for those with complicated estates, challenging interpersonal or family dynamics, more support may be required to enable the parties to achieve a mutually agreeable resolution. For them, collaborative practice may be a good choice.
Collaborative practice is an interdisciplinary team approach to resolution of the conflict. Providing the support of legal, mental health and financial experts working as a team to support the couple can help to stabilize the interpersonal dynamics, re-balance any power imbalances and create a full, clear and neutral picture of the financial issues. Nothing makes divorce easy, but a multidisciplinary approach can make it possible for those who could not achieve an agreement on their own, to work through the decision-making process in a manner that often creates better outcomes than mediation or litigation.
By focusing on their needs, interests and goals, the parties in a collaborative divorce are able to create options for resolution that are not available in court. Judges’ hands are tied by the law, but families have the power to shape their own fate in ways the law might not support. With the assistance of a well-trained team of professionals, parties are empowered to see past simple, positional solutions to those that can serve the entire family. Collaborative practice provides a structured approach to information gathering, exploration and testing of options for resolution, and ultimately for achieving compromise between the parties.
While more challenging cases may require more time and incur more cost, for many families, the collaborative approach can represent a cost-effective and expedient manner of achieving the goal of a self-directed outcome. The collaborative approach can provide clients the ability to avoid litigation, address the real interests of their family, and also to begin the healing process. It’s hard, but very rewarding work! Frances Ross Nolan