How do you protect your family's future when you're facing a divorce?
Anger, Fear, Grief--all narrow your focus. The best antidote is a resolution that's safe, that protects children, that looks to the future--a solution that sees the Big Picture.
In Minnesota, marriages begin with a license. And they end with a court file. But the lives of the participants go on long after the court case is over. The quality of those lives is directly affected by the choices you make during the case. Twenty-five years of experience has shown us, time after time, that bitter divorce fights decrease that quality. It also has shown what can maintain, and even improve it.
Cooperation. Respect. Acknowledgment.
Those qualities can resolve a divorce and keep it resolved. They're the heart of Collaborative Practice--the process we favor whenever possible.
Collaborative Practice is
NOT a warm and fuzzy, "New Age," foolish abandonment of Common
Sense. To the contrary, it's as hard-headedly practical as you can
get. Here's why:
Divorce reorganizes your
family. If there are things you need--if there are things your spouse
needs--from that reorganization, you both need each other's agreement on
those terms. Which approach is more likely to secure that, the
arguments you've already had, or something different? Experience
teaches us your spouse is more likely to listen to you if you're willing
to listen to your spouse. You may discover your needs aren't mutually
exclusive. Or you may discover that creative compromises result in
as much of what you need as you could hope to get.
Dealing with your spouse
respectfully, really hearing what it is they need from you, will get you
more of what you want, in less time, at less expense, than a protracted
fight will. And it's true for them, as well, which means they really
have to listen to you. Hundreds of couples who have chosen the
collaborative approach have proven this is true.
Finding a Better Way
In 1989, a Minnesota lawyer who was fed up with the “dog-and-pony shows” in family court asked whether it wouldn’t be better to use his training and knowledge of the law to help couples make their own decisions. In conjunction with other like-minded, experienced family law attorneys, Stu Webb founded the Collaborative Law Institute, beginning a movement that today has expanded throughout the United States and has moved into Canada, Europe and Australia.
The hallmarks of Collaborative Practice are:
- no court appearances --the court receives the final documents needed to end the marriage after the parties (assisted by their lawyers) decide all the issues.
- safety --no decisions will be reached unless and until both parties agree on the decision. No decision can be forced on a party. You can’t say “the wrong thing” and screw everything up. You extend --and receive --respectful treatment.
- speed --a case can be resolved much more quickly than the typical court case, since meetings are controlled by the parties’ schedules, not the court’s.
- less expense --a collaborative case typically will cost the parties far less than their case would cost if litigated from start to finish. Would you rather pay to put your children, or your lawyer’s children, through college?
- incentives --if the matter cannot be resolved collaboratively, both lawyers are ethically required to withdraw from representation and cannot represent that client any further in that case. This provides a significant incentive for everyone to adhere to collaborative principles as the case proceeds.
- mental health --by using your emotional energy to resolve issues instead of attacking your spouse or defending against attacks, by concluding your divorce expeditiously, by taking control of the outcome, you may avoid many of the problems often experienced in divorce: depression, anxiety, issues of self-worth.
- durability --agreements typically last much longer if reached by both parties instead of being forced upon them by the court. By engaging in a Collaborative process, the parties learn how to conduct interest-based negotiations, rather than positional, competitive bargaining where the starting assumption is that “If you win, I lose.” Instead, the parties see how issues can be reframed so the resolution results in a “win” for both of them.
Once upon a time, two people were fighting over a lemon. Each of them wanted sole custody of the lemon. Well, this is a family law website.
They went to their neighbor, a wise old judge, for advice on resolving the dispute.
“Well,” said the judge, “if you asked me to decide the matter for you, I’d cut the lemon in half and then you’d each get exactly the same thing.”
“But I want more than just half a lemon!” both people exclaimed in unison.
“Hmmm,” said the judge. “You know, before I became a judge, I was a Collaborative Practice lawyer. ["We said he was wise."] I want each of you to tell me why you want this lemon. Perhaps we can find a better way to resolve this.”
“Well, I want the lemon zest to bake cookies,” said the first person.
“I want the juice to make lemonade,” said the second.
“I think I can help you,” said the judge, handing a lemon zester to the first person and a juicer to the second.
And each person got almost everything they wanted (especially the wise old judge, who stopped worrying that these people would show up in his courtroom in a couple of months with a rotten lemon he’d have to cut in half).