Collaborative law is an alternate form of dispute resolution in the family law context. While proponents contend that collaborative law is both less expensive and more effective than traditional, adversarial law, it can actually drag out disputes in matters of divorce and child custody, thereby increasing costs.
The Facts About Collaborative Law
The first thing to know about collaborative law is that it is practiced outside of the courtroom. The philosophy underlying this basic fact is that, by removing contentious issues from the inherently adversarial context of the courtroom, parties will be more inclined to put aside their differences and work together to compromise and find mutually agreeable arrangements. However, this does not mean that the parties are without representation; separate attorneys are still retained by each. After retaining separate legal counsel, the parties agree to several covenants that express the “let’s work together” spirit of collaborative law. Among these covenants are agreements to treat one another with respect, to fully and honestly disclose all information and documents relevant to the disputed issues, and to shield any children who are party to the dispute from any adverse emotional impact. However, as even proponents concede, these covenants are bound to ring hollow in many cases.
When Collaborative Law Is the Wrong Approach
Obviously, collaborative law, in its essence, is about working together. This can be hugely problematic in the context of divorce, which, in its essence, is about ceasing togetherness. It follows that collaborative law is at risk of sometimes being directly at odds with one of its principal aims: facilitating divorces. Sure, it might work for the rare pair who can remain amicable through a divorce or child custody dispute. But what about divorces in which the marriage has been devastated by infidelity, abuse, radical differences of opinion in child-rearing styles, or bitter disputes over finances? It is these scenarios where a “let’s work together” spirit just isn’t realistic. For those who delude themselves that it is, the cost can be significant.
The Cost When A Collaborative Law Approach Fails
While an attempt to resolve a family law dispute through collaborative law begins outside of the courtroom, it doesn’t necessarily end that way. If the parties simply can’t reach an agreement, the collaborative law process ends, and the dispute shifts to the traditional courtroom setting. Not only that, but the original attorneys are disqualified from continuing their roles outside of the failed collaborative attempt. What does this mean for the parties? You guessed it: more attorneys. More attorneys translates to more costs – a reality that is certain to only further sour the dispute, and potentially make matters even more litigious than they would have been if the first attempt at settling the dispute was in the courtroom rather than the collaborative context.
Mediation Is Still Used In Traditional Family Law
Don’t be fooled into thinking that collaborative law is the only forum for alternate forms of dispute resolution. Traditional family law, too, attempts to settle cases either prior to, or at mediation. Finally, the past is the best indicator of the future; if you know a spirit of cooperation and compromise simply isn’t realistic, don’t waste time, money, and stress on an attempt at collaborative law that is likely doomed from the outset.
Are you considering a divorce? The family law attorneys at All Family Law Group will work towards settling your case in amicable manner with your spouse, if feasible. Call or email All Family Law Group at 813.902.3624 for a consultation at no charge with an experienced Tampa divorce lawyer to discuss your case.
By Lynette Silon-Laguna Google