Collaborative Law is becoming more popular worldwide, and rightfully so. Collaborative Law is a method of handling cases and resolving disputes by removing the disputed matter from the litigious court room setting and treating the process as a way to develop options and problem solve rather than to fight and battle it out in court.
It seems to me that there are many myths surrounding Collaborative Law that act to dissuade attorneys from familiarizing themselves with it and from using it in their own practices. I am going to do my best to briefly describe the most common myths that get tossed around by attorneys and I encourage you to move past these potential deterrents.
- Only the rich can do it: Not entirely true. While collaborative cases involve several players, including collaborative attorneys, a mental health professional and a financial professional, unlike traditional litigated cases which can drag on for years, most collaborative cases happen in a condensed period of time. Specifically with divorces, given that nearly 95% of all traditional divorces end with a negotiated settlement, those parties end up paying for a large amount of preparation for a trial that never even occurs. Many collaborative lawyers report that the total cost of a collaborative divorce is often lower than that of a divorce processed through the adversarial, litigated process.
- Collaborative Law is a fad: I know a lot of attorneys would like to believe this, but it simply is not the case. What began with one attorney in Minneapolis over 27 years ago has grown into an internationally recognized process that now includes thousands of practitioners from 25 countries around the world.
- The parties must trust each other and get along in order for the process to work: For divorce cases, if the parties got along perfectly and trusted each other completely, they probably would not be getting a divorce in the first place. It is true that many of the same emotions and issues that play out in traditional divorces—pain, fear, resentment, distrust—are also present in collaborative divorces. However, the difference lies in a willingness by the participants to work with their collaborative team to overcome these issues to reach a settlement that incorporates the interests of both parties.
- Can’t be done where there are a lot of assets because I would need to do a LOT of discovery: Again, not true. Even though there is no formal “discovery” process that takes place in litigated cases, the parties in the collaborative process fully disclose records and financial information to each other. While there is not formal, written discovery or depositions, there is a thorough, focused overview for the attorneys and the experts to evaluate. Moreover, in Collaborative Law cases, there typically are more eyes looking over the finances than there are in litigated cases, so there may even be more protection of each party in collaborative cases.
Collaborative Law can be a great option to avoid the uncertain outcome of litigation and going to court and to achieve a settlement that best meets the specific needs of both parties and their families.