Collaborative vs. Traditional Divorce Litigation

Wed, Feb 24, 2016

Family Law

14876806611_55137e8583_bBitter, contested fights are the norm in all those divorce battles you see on TV. It drags on for months, accusations fly, in-depth custody evaluations and bargaining ensues. Private detectives are hired and seedy pictures are taken. Then, one spouse makes a classic move that lands them all the property and sole custody of the kids. Inevitably, the “meanest spouse” wins and lives in a castle, while the “nice one” ends up living in a shack with roaches.

Or perhaps you have heard of the celebrity quick divorce. This happens because of a prior pre-nup, the state rules, or lots and lots of money. Then they have to act as if everything is fine or they are really snarky…so it’s not a real-life situation either way. Don’t assume your divorce will go the same as all the celebrity divorce cases do; a lot of it depends on the the state you live in.

Real divorce is not like either of these scenarios. It’s not nearly as exciting, or if it is…not in a good way. It’s sad, uncomfortable, and unfair to someone or everyone, often especially the children. Feelings are hurt and a decision that everyone has to live with comes into play, lives are changed forever, and then sometimes someone ends up not even following the rules.

Litigation is something almost all family law attorneys will tell you that you want to avoid. It is expensive, often unfair, and can lead to a disappointing outcome. It’s an arbitrary decision made by a judge that, even if made with the best of intentions, is not going to suit everyone. Therefore, mediation is often the better way to go. Your attorney can do it with you, you can go it alone with your spouse, and you can take some turns in the room. You can go back several times. You can also come in with some decisions already made. In addition, you can present different ideas and do some bargaining that gets you what you want in some areas and allows you to give in with other decisions.

However, mediation is not always going to work either, especially if the divorce is contentious, someone is not cooperating, or you never communicated well to begin with. Or what if your attorney doesn’t like mediation or finds it unsuccessful? Then you are going to have to work hard to settle what you want by mediation. Mediation has many good aspects. Therefore, sometimes a path that is taken is collaborative divorce.

Yes, a collaborative divorce exists…even if your marriage wasn’t very collaborative! Perhaps you both realize that now is the time to become collaborative…for yourselves and your children. Don’t go down without a fight, but work together to make the fight less traumatic. Stand firm where you need to and be loose where you can, because fighting over everything doesn’t work very well.

Collaborative divorce means you both have your own attorney…but you and your spouse and your attorneys work together to create a divorce agreement that works for both of you. In fact, an organization exists called the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals that uses this type of collaboration to settle disputes of all kinds. In divorce cases, you would use collaborative attorneys along with financial professionals and child specialists if needed. You will get the benefit of numerous amounts of input aimed at creating a good arrangement for everyone. Everyone is making a good faith attempt to solve the problem: it’s almost like one big long mediation.

This isn’t to say that problems don’t arise, but hopefully they can be resolved since everyone is committed to doing so in a way to benefit everyone.

And speaking of everyone being committed, we mean your attorneys too. You don’t want to hire an attorney who is only out to make some cash on you or draw things out as long as possible. With collaborative divorce, you know that your attorney is looking to settle for the good of all. You can rest assured you tried your best to create the best divorce possible for your situation, avoiding unnecessary costly litigation.

Attorney Christopher D. Smith, Sr. is designated a Board Certified Consumer Bankruptcy Lawyer by the American Board of Certification.  SmithLaw is located in Lakewood Ranch, Florida.  Attorney Smith concentrates on bankruptcy, civil litigation, probate, family law, estate planning, real estate, and elder exploitation cases in the Sarasota and Bradenton area.  Call 941-202-2222 to learn more.  SmithLaw offers free consultations in certain areas, including consumer bankruptcy, probate, and personal injury matters.

Image: Some rights reserved by Ory Thompson

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