Stop, Collaborate, and Listen: Is a Collaborative Divorce for Me?

July 26th, 2017

Stop, Collaborate, and Listen:  Is a Collaborative Divorce for Me?

By:  Austin E. Williamson and Heather Rooney McBride

“There is more than one way to skin a cat”.  The divorce process epitomizes this saying as there are many paths to finality, some harder than others.  Setting aside the whirlwind of anger, hurt feelings and uncertainty that are commonplace in domestic matters, taking the path of litigation is expensive, frustrating and time consuming.  Parties in domestic disputes often feel intimidated, fearful, anxious, and powerless, and often the court system does little to ease these feelings.  While you may eventually reach some type of finality in your divorce, litigation can be the most treacherous road to travel.  The collaborative process may offer a better solution.

What is Collaborative Law?

Collaborative Law is a form of Advanced Dispute Resolution (ADR) which, similar to mediation, is a process which promotes resolution of your case prior to (and without the need of) litigation.  Unlike mediation, however, the collaborative process is normally started from the outset of the case, while mediation is typically ordered by the Court.  Also, unlike mediation where your attorney may not be involved, in the collaborative process, your attorney plays an integral role and is by your side for the entire process.

Why Collaborative Law over Litigation?

Litigation can magnify an already tense situation.  A divorce hearing is a public forum where all of your “dirty laundry” will likely be aired out and may, ultimately, be accessible as a matter of public record.  Due to a backed logged Court docket, you may not be able to see a Judge for a significant period of time, which leaves your financial and personal life in limbo.  There is no open exchange of information; rather, your attorney will spend time and resources preparing discovery, conducting depositions and/or performing other costly fact-finding tactics to get the information necessary to effectively try your case. Lastly, at the end of the case, a Judge will make a decision that will have significant and sometimes permanent effects on your life.

Comparatively, the collaborative process affirmatively seeks to make both parties feel safe, respected and in control of their lives while working toward a resolution.  The process is focused on seeking solutions through open and honest dialogue and transparency rather than assessing blame.      The collaborative process is private and confidential, and you may never have to step in a courtroom.  The collaborative sessions can be set on your schedule and completed at your own pace, meaning you can have your case resolved much quicker and without waiting for a trial date.  The parties freely exchange necessary information which saves your attorney from having to prepare and enforce discovery requests; that ultimately saves you time and money.  Most importantly, you are in control of your fate because you and your spouse are allowed to fashion solutions and results that will work best both of you going forward.

What if the Collaborative Process Fails? 

As long as the parties enter the collaborative process in good faith and with the sincere intent to cooperate in reaching an amicable result, it is unlikely that you will fail.  Most domestic cases settle, in large part because the collaborative process helps keep the focus of amicable resolution at the forefront.  However, if the collaborative process does not work out, you still have the option to litigate your case.  That said, if the parties have to resort to litigation, then neither party can use his or her collaborative process attorney in the litigation.  Everyone starts over with new attorneys – this time with the intent to litigate the matter.

Want to Know More?

There is no question that divorce is hard; however, the more amicable that you can be with your spouse, the more bearable the process.  A collaborative divorce is a way to find finality with civility.  If you would like to know more about whether the collaborative process would be a good fit for you and your spouse, or if you are interested in speaking with legal counsel certified in collaborative law, please contact Attorney Austin E. Williamson of Rooney McBride & Smith, LLC today to schedule a consultation.