At lunch today, a very good friend and I started talking about Collaborative Law. I have known him over 30 years and we often talk about law, divorce (he’s had two) and what I do as a lawyer. We have discussed Collaborative Law a number of times. I learned today that I need to be a little clearer with others when I talk about how the process works. I was shocked to hear statement after statement of misunderstandings from him.
Here are three fallacies that my friend told me about Collaborative Law. He believed these were fundamentals of the process.
Husband and wife use the same attorney in a Collaborative case. He was shocked when I explained that both parties must use different attorneys because there would be a conflict of interest in trying to represent opposing parties. I actually hear this from a number of people who call in to make an appointment to see me for a possible Collaborative Law case. In reality, both parties need separate attorneys so that each attorney can represent only one party and so that a party can have confidential communications with their attorney, as well as the undivided attention of that attorney.
Collaborative Law is only used when the case is agreeable. Quite the contrary, I explained that Collaborative Law is a conflict resolution process. There’s no need for Collaborative if everything is already agreed. Collaborative is well adapted for dealing with very difficult issues, such as custody, visitation, property division, alimony, etc. We have extra skilled hands with the neutral therapist and the neutral financial advisor who can give appropriate suggestions on difficult issues.
You have to use litigation if the parties don’t agree on everything at the outset. No, Collaborative Law is a problem-solving process. There’s almost never a completely agreed divorce at the outset anyway. If there are major disagreements, Collaborative may be the best way to resolve them.
If you are facing a divorce or other difficult family law issue, please contact a trained Collaborative lawyer and make an appointment to discuss whether Collaborative Law might be appropriate for your case. Don’t let any preconceived ideas prevent you from exploring that option!