COLLABORATIVE FAMILY LAW
Divorce is one of the most stressful events a person can experience. Over 50% of all marriages end in divorce. It stands to reason that nearly everyone will be affected by divorce, either directly or indirectly.
Up until recently, the primary process by which spouses divorced was through the Court System. This is an adversarial litigation process whereby spouses focus on denigrating, disparaging, criticizing, and maligning the other spouse in Court.
It is no wonder that parties find divorce terrifying.
At KM Welsh, P.A., our goal is to help spouses divorce without destroying their families or their financial stability.
The collaborative divorce replaces the highly contentious court divorce with a method that allows parties to resolve their disputes respectfully and without hostility fueled by combative litigation. A collaborative divorce offers an attractive alternative to the traditional adversarial court divorce. The collaborative process allows you and your spouse to come up with a solution which ultimately should cost less, take less time, and protect your relationships with your children, extended family and even your soon-to-be ex.
At KM Welsh, P.A., we highly recommend exploring the option of collaborative law to help save time, money, and stress. If you would like more information regarding collaborative divorce, please call for a consultation with lawyer Kathryn Welsh today.
What Is Collaborative Law?
Collaborative law is a unique process used to resolve disputes in which both clients retain separate lawyers whose only job is to help the clients settle their disputes. All participants agree to work together. They agree to work together in a respectful and honest manner to reach a mutual agreement, which meets both clients’ interests.
If the case does not settle in the collaborative process, the lawyers must withdraw and cannot participate in the adversarial court proceedings.
The collaborative process utilizes informal discussions and joint meetings to settle the issues. The clients and their lawyers commit to resolving differences justly and equitably without adversarial court proceedings. The process utilizes informal discovery, such as the voluntary exchange of documents, neutral experts and other collaborative professionals. The lawyers assist the clients in determining the information both clients need in order to reach a settlement. Each client’s questions and concerns are respected and addressed in a reasonable and dignified atmosphere.
Collaborative law uses problem-solving negotiations that do not include adversarial techniques or tactics. These interest-based negotiations focus on ascertaining and meeting the clients’ expressed goals, needs, and desires. Although the lawyer still advocates for the client in the collaborative process, there is no posturing, no threatening, and no deception utilized. The clients are responsible for the outcome. They work with their lawyers to understand the legal consequences, both for themselves and the other client. The collaborative process is designed to achieve each client’s best possible outcome under the circumstances.
Whereas the traditional litigation model is based upon each lawyer advocating one client’s position, the collaborative law model encourages understanding of the other client’s interest and concerns. Given the opportunity to craft more creative property and parental responsibility and parenting time arrangements than the adversarial process allows, the clients can choose methods of resolving disputes as they arise that will keep them out of the court system and minimize the possibility of future conflicts.
When clients are committed to settlement and litigation is not an option, creativity and flexibility in problem-solving becomes the norm. The collaborative team model involves engaging a mental health professional (MHP) and a financial professional (FP) at the start of the case, both of whom are neutral. The MHP assists with the emotional issues that often interfere with communication and block settlement, and the FP assists with budgetary and other financial considerations for both parties. The lawyers, MHP and FP comprise the collaborative team, and the team’s goal is to assist the clients with achieving a maximized outcome under the circumstances. The possibilities that exist in the collaborative framework are limited only by the imaginations of the clients and their commitment to settlement.
One of the most attractive aspects of collaborative law for many clients is the fact that it is conducted in private, with the exception of the final “prove-up” of the divorce. In the privacy of one of the lawyer’s or other collaborative professional’s offices, the clients can discuss sensitive issues that they might prefer not to air in the public arena of the courtroom.
Another appealing aspect of collaborative law is its flexibility in scheduling. In litigation, the scheduling of hearings and depositions frequently is done with no consideration for the parties’ schedules. In collaborative law, the clients and their lawyers schedule everything themselves and thus avoid inconveniencing each other. Also, the clients are not under pressure to dispose of their case according to a court’s docket guidelines. The collaborative law process gives clients the ability to move as quickly as the clients feel makes sense in their case, giving them time to emotionally deal with the divorce, experiment with different parenting time schedules, sell a home, or do whatever else needs to be done before they finalize their divorce.
Some clients may ask if the collaborative law process costs less than litigation. There are two ways to look at “cost.” If you are concerned about costs such as a damaged relationship with the other party, trauma to the children, loss of privacy, etc., the collaborative process is definitely less costly. If the concern is the amount of professional fees, collaborative law probably is less expensive than litigation, although collaborative law is not bargain-basement law. Some clients also express concerns over duplicating costs if the case terminates. Information gathering in collaborative law is informal, thus, there is no need to deal with the elaborate rules governing the discovery process in litigation, which often fails to produce the needed information in any event. Since gathering information is one of the major activities in the litigation process, if the clients are unable to settle in collaborative law, very little of the time and money expended in the collaborative law information gathering process is wasted.
Is Collaborative Divorce Right For You?
While collaborative law can be very efficient and effective in a family law case, it is not necessarily the right choice for everyone. Both parties should be committed to the collaborative process in order to achieve positive results. Collaborative law works for the majority of clients; however, it may not be right for everyone. It certainly should be considered if some of these statements are true:
* The client wants a civilized and dignified resolution of the dispute.
* The client would like to retain the possibility of friendship with the other party.
* The client wants the best co-parenting relationship.
* The client wants to minimize or eliminate the damage the hostility and conflict of litigation often causes children.
* The client and the other party have friends and extended family with whom they both wish to remain connected.
* The client recognizes the limited range of outcomes generally available in the
court system and wants a more creative and individualized range of choices.
* The client values honesty and integrity, dignity, privacy and discretion.
* The client would like to control the proceedings rather than leaving the outcome
in the hands of a third party (the judge or jury).
* The client wants a process that is designed to achieve his/her best possible
outcome under the circumstances.
* The client understands that resolving conflicts with dignity involves meeting not
only the client’s goals but finding ways to meet the reasonable goals of the other party.
ADVANTAGES OF THE COLLABORATIVE LAW PROCESS:
* Collaborative law contemplates a series of meetings to gather information, to develop and evaluate options, and to allow each party time to make informed decisions. During these meetings, the parties will have the comfort of professional advice and guidance from their respective collaborative lawyers.
* The collaborative law process preserves privacy by not airing differences in a public forum. Most settlement terms and financial disclosures can be kept from the public record.
* The parties retain control over the outcome. Collaborative settlements are more sustainable over time and invite more consistent compliance than do court-ordered mandates.
* The collaborative law process helps parents develop and preserve a cooperative relationship that will benefit their children as they go about the task of co-parenting.
* The inevitable increase in hostility and conflict that results from adversarial litigation emotionally damages litigants’ children. The collaborative law process is designed to minimize post-divorce conflict.
* Extended family relationships and friendships are more likely to be preserved in the collaborative law process.
* The collaborative law process can level the playing field by having all fees paid from community or separate funds or otherwise allocated in an acceptable manner.
* The collaborative law process requires the professionals and parties to explore options that address the interests of both parties and their child(ren), rather than take tactical positions to obtain an advantage.
* The collaborative law process encourages creative solutions to meet the parties’ needs, which may differ from what the court would decide.
* Everyone has an economic incentive to work toward settlement – the parties because of the high cost of litigation and the lawyers because they will be required to withdraw if settlement cannot be achieved.
* The collaborative law process is confidential. Litigation is public.
* The team approach is one of the major benefits of the collaborative law process. The process allows the parties to jointly engage neutral professionals to help them resolve their differences and improve their communication.
At KM Welsh, P.A., an experienced Florida collaborative family law lawyer can assist you in making a decision regarding the collaborative law process. Attorney Kathryn Welsh will guide you through every stage of the process for the most favorable resolution possible. Please call today for help at 727-586-7088.