Divorce: when approached the wrong way it can be contentious, adversarial, and costly — both financially and emotionally. The traditional approach often leaves both parties bitter and angry; it is designed as me vs. them.
Collaborative practice (a.k.a. collaborative divorce) shifts this dynamic, opening the opportunity for a cooperative, fair, constructive process. When you are ending a marriage or partnership, collaborative practice can make it, if not easy, then easier.
The Benefits of Collaborative Practice
When suitable, and when both parties are committed, collaborative practice offers a number of benefits:
- Interest-Based, Not Position-Based.
Traditional divorce proceedings are position-based — and this can create quite a bit of contention and discord. Here’s an example: “I am claiming sole custody and support, along with half of the children’s university tuition. I want to buy you out of the home. …”
In a collaborative process, this conversation sounds different. We try to start from a point of commonality. For example, one may say, “I’d like to be on cordial, friendly terms with my ex. I would like to see our children doing well with both of us having our meaningful roles as parents.”
The other party may nod and add: “I’d like that too. I’d like this to be fair.”
This is a good starting point. It’s not where it will end because we still have to iron out all the details involved in getting people to a resolution. The parties are separated. Each of them will have his or her own private lives and individual “interests”. But it helps the process move forward in a more conciliatory manner as compared to more rigid positions and demands.
Even when we do get down to the nitty-gritty and discuss details regarding kids, money or property, you have to find out the rationale behind what is being proposed. For example, a father might say, “I would like to have 50/50 time with the children.” A “reality check” in terms of his own work schedule or the kids’ schedules may make implementation of this idea with mathematical precision difficult.
But if we uncover the interest, it can make a significant difference. It might be that he does not want to be a “weekend parent,” that he wants a good relationship with the children and to play a big role in their lives. Again, this is easier to understand and to work with in terms of deciding on an arrangement that works for both parties (and, in this case, of course, the children).
- Parties Work Together.
When lawyers communicate with one another mainly through letter-writing or “duke it out in court,” it can add to the contentious nature of divorce proceedings. Collaborative practice, though, empowers you to work together to find the best possible outcome without all of the adversarial back-and-forth.
- Streamlined Process.
Collaborative practice is a highly organized, intensive approach to divorce. We work within specific timelines, and each party (including sometimes their lawyers) has “homework” and action items to complete after the sessions. These protocols ensure that the process does not drag out unnecessarily, which, again, increases negative feelings.
- Parenting And Financial Professionals Are There To Help.
Our approach is interdisciplinary. We often have the assistance of independent family professionals, often family therapists, to formulate parenting arrangements for the benefit of you and your children. We will have help from independent financial professionals from the accounting and financial services fields to assist with “number crunching”. Often there are issues of valuation of assets and debts, calculation of incomes or income tax matters. These family and financial professionals are also specially trained in collaborative practice and are part of our collaborative team.
- Less Expensive.
Divorce is not only an emotional drain, it is a financial one as well. However, because of the collaborative, cooperative approach and the adherence to timelines, agreements can be reached more quickly and with less cost.
- Greater Control.
Your fate, as it were, is not in the hands of a judge. It is in yours, and those of our separating spouse/partner. It is up to you to build a fair, reasonable solution that works for your family. It may be less conventional, more creative, and customized to you and your family: that is great. This is exactly the point of collaborative practice.
Your lawyers and the other members of the collaborative team will support you in achieving this goal.
When Is Collaborative Practice Not An Ideal Approach?
As effective as collaborative practice can be, it is not suitable for all situations. To work as intended:
- You and your spouse need to be committed to the collaborative work and able to maintain respect in your contact and discussion. The ability to listen to the other is very important.
- Both parties’ lawyers need to be trained in collaborative practice.
- Each party must view the other as an equal partner in the process.
When suitable, and when both parties are committed to the process, collaborative practice can alleviate a great deal of the contention, stress, and financial strain of traditional court proceedings. Divorce is never easy, but finding a fair, reasonable solution can equip you with the sense of control and reassurance you need to move forward in a positive way.
As long-time collaborative practitioners, we at Morrison Reist Krauss can assist you in this innovative, user-friendly approach to separation and divorce. Find out how we can help.