Collaboration  Isn’t  Always “Kumbaya Around the Campfire”

Among the advantages of the Collaborative Law process to resolve family disputes and transitions are the transparency, cooperativeness and candor committed to by the couple and the settlement professionals.  In every jurisdiction where Collaborative Law is practiced, a “Participation Agreement” (sometimes referred to as a “Process Agreement”) is signed by all team members.  That contract establishes the common goals of open communications and overall fair dealing to arrive at win-win outcomes entirely without adversarial litigation.

While those altruistic ideals are actually manifested in most Collaborative Divorces, it would be misleading to conclude that everyone is a proverbial “happy camper” around the negotiation table.  No, the couple and their hired Collaborative team members don’t “hold hands” and sing spiritual folksongs like “Kumbaya” together in unison.  Legal separation and divorce are VERY HARD WORKEmotions don’t magically disappear just because marital partners choose the Collaborative option.  It is certainly true that Collaboration provides a safe and welcoming atmosphere where spouses are able to air their differences and freely express their feelings and wishes for their futures.  Absent are the fear of reprisal by a barracuda-type opposing lawyer or the disappointment of getting far less than “your day in court” in an overworked judicial system.

A generation ago, a divorce lawyer wore mostly all the “hats” in representing her client.  Attorneys for divorcing clients were of course the legal advisors:  but also served the functions as the financial expert, the “shoulder to cry on”, the parenting specialist, the tax consultant, and the litigation manager.  Nowadays in the Collaborative Law process, families have input and empathy from neutral professionals in fields other than the law—such as collaboratively-trained “coaches” and “facilitators” licensed in mental health and other conflict resolution disciplines.  The challenges of dividing a household and moving apart will be heard and addressed by experienced settlement advocates who share in the desire to avoid courtroom warfare. 

Don’t expect all of this professional intervention to entirely eliminate the tension, mistrust and rancor that oftentimes accompanies the breakup of a marriage.  But do expect that Collaborative Practice will afford the family the best possible resources to achieve dignity and respect amidst a very impassioned life passage.