DIVORCE - Without Going to Court
Collaborative Law is an alternative approach to litigated divorce or custody matters. Issues are resolved in a confidential, respectful, and private manner. It can save your resources and your sanity.
Traditional DivorceDivorce. Just saying it can cause panic for anyone in a troubled marriage. For anyone who has been through the process, the word provokes negative feelings - anger, fear, greed, loss, and frustration - feelings associated with traumatic experiences. Our legal system, especially in Pennsylvania, is designed to be adversarial. It pits one spouse against the other. It puts the children, if any, in the middle. Two people who once loved each other become arch enemies trying to hold on to their children, their possessions, and often their home.
I often hear people say, "I want my day in court." Unfortunately, the experience is not what they thought it would be. They want to have a voice, but the voices that are the loudest in a court setting are the judges and the lawyers, NOT the parties. It is the lawyers who speak and the judges who make the decisions. Private, often embarrassing issues are discussed in an open forum. The parties do not speak to each other or directly to the judge. The lawyers ask questions and the parties have to answer the questions. The process takes a bad situation and makes it worse. There are no winners in a litigated divorce, only losers.
A Better Way to DivorceThere is, however, a better way! The process of collaborative divorce gives the parties a voice. It focuses on the needs of the family as a whole. It does not pit one against the other. There is no judge. Everybody talks to each other, including the parties and their lawyers. The important thing that everyone must agree upon is to NOT go to court. The parties and their lawyers sign a participation agreement that states the parameters of the process, including stating that if anyone goes to court or threatens to go to court, the lawyers must withdraw from the process and the parties start over with new representation. It is the glue that keeps the process together!
Collaboratively trained lawyers use special techniques to help the parties have productive conversations. The conversations are private and confidential. There is no airing of dirty laundry in public. While still acting as an advocate for their clients, the collaborative attorneys work as part of a team with the goal of an amicable resolution that works for the entire family.
Using Neutrals in Collaborative DivorceIn some collaborative cases, neutral professionals can help resolve some of the issues. Neutrals are specially trained professionals who deal with the non-legal issues inherent in a divorce or custody issue. Since they do not represent one party or the other, they do not take sides, but look for solutions, and help the clients resolve issues that arise. Mental health professionals can help deal with the emotional issues and custody issues in the role of a divorce coach or child advocate. Financial neutrals can help resolve the financial issues such as support and equitable distribution.
Better and More Satisfying ResultsParties who resolve their divorce and custody issues through the collaborative process are much more likely to be satisfied with the outcome. They are usually able to maintain a good relationship with their ex-spouse and can be much better co-parents when there are children involved.