“If you are looking for the most self-righteous people in America, go to divorce court. Nobody’s to blame, nobody’s done anything wrong. We aren’t happy with the situation, but we don’t know what to do.”–Washington Post columnist Judy Mann, “Helping the Real Victims of Divorce” (August 20, 1997)
In the past, divorce cases were thrown into the same court system that handled criminal cases, personal injury lawsuits and all the other disputes heading for public trials. Husbands and wives were adversaries, and the focus was on past conduct and on assigning blame. Cases took too long, cost too much, and hurt the very people who turned to the courts for relief, as well as their children.
Now, there is another way: collaborating with settlement specialists. It goes by many names–collaborative law, collaborative practice, collaborative process, collaborative divorce–but the idea is remarkably simple. Rather than spending tremendous amounts of time, energy and money to fight in court, why not focus your time, energy and money on finding solutions?
The fact is 98% of cases settle. At some point, almost every husband and every wife chooses to end their divorce case by agreement. Some cases settle soon after being filed. Others settle on the day of trial. Rather than fighting for months about the past and about blame and then settling your case, what would happen if you committed from Day One to focusing on solutions that will work for everyone? That is what the collaboration process is all about.
Each spouse has the support of a highly skilled and ethical attorney who helps the couple assess, discuss, listen, evaluate and choose. Information is freely exchanged, and communication is centered on good-faith problem solving. Other professionals (financial, mental health and child specialists) are enlisted when needed to assist the couples through their negotiations and when evaluating the specific needs of their children. Each professional promises to respect the family’s core objectives and to avoid any threats of litigation. In fact, both attorneys commit to serve as settlement specialists only, not as trial attorneys.
Respect. Understanding. Cooperation. Communication. Collaboration. What a great way to prepare a divorcing family for their transition into the future.