A Collaborative Law Success Story is a four-part video series describing a successful resolution of a divorce between John and Diane through the Collaborative Law process. Below is Part 2 and the transcript for Part 2:
Collaborative Law is an option for resolving legal issues such as divorce or business disputes without litigation. Collaborative Law uses a team approach to assist people in finding solutions to problems by understanding their goals.
Trained professionals guide the clients through the collaborative process in a private and confidential setting. John chose the collaborative law process to resolve both his divorce and a recent business dispute because it let him solve more than just the legal aspect of his dispute. When John had a business dispute with a contractor he not only wanted to resolve the contract issue but he also wanted to preserve the business relationship going forward.
In his divorce, John's greatest concern, the well-being of his children, wasn't a legal concern. John first chose Collaborative Law because he
was worried that Diane's approach to telling the children about the divorce could cause Danny, his older son, to become depressed and withdrawn or to feel like he needs to side with one of his parents. John worried that a court order would not be able to manage the emotional impact of this conversation on Danny but Collaborative Law provided him and Diane the space to address these concerns.
In Collaborative Law the team is led by a neutral coach or facilitator. In a divorce the coach is typically a mental health practitioner. In a business case it may be a mental health practitioner or an executive or business coach. Each party is also represented by a collaboratively trained attorney.
In the Collaborative Law process the parties may also jointly hire a financial neutral to help them evaluate the relevant financial issues in a case. The Collaborative team approach represents a shift from positional based negotiation to interest based negotiation. Effective interest based negotiation requires the parties are able to express their goals and the Collaborative Coach assists in helping parties identify and articulate those goals.
Identifying the interest beneath the surface before jumping to possible solutions helps to prevent the parties from getting stuck on a particular outcome. This is a paradigm shift.
The coach facilitated communication between John and Diane and their attorneys. Respectful and honest communication is critical in effective interest based negotiation. The coach also kept the parties on point and assisted them in communicating respectfully and effectively.
The skill set that a coach brings to the negotiation table is different from that of an attorney. A mental health practitioner is typically trained in family dynamics and child development. This training was essential in helping John and Diane to develop an effective co-parenting plan and in developing solutions to issues such as how to tell their children about a divorce in a manner that is age appropriate or to address feelings such as anger towards a spouse that had an affair.
In the collaborative law process each party hires of collaboratively trained attorney. The attorneys’ role in collaborative law is focused
on settlement. While this is still an advocacy role, John's divorce attorney and his business attorney didn't try to win.
Each attorney took into account John's goals such as the desire to maintain an ongoing relationship with his customer and to effectively co-parent with Diane. John and Diane's attorneys educated them about the law and the risks or benefits of various legal options. The attorneys assisted their clients in expressing their goals throughout the process. The attorneys worked as part of the problem solving team and upon resolution prepared the necessary legal documents.
In the collaborative law process the parties may jointly hire a financial neutral to help them evaluate the relevant financial issues in the case.
In litigation both parties typically hire their own financial expert, but in Collaborative Law the parties save time and money by having one financial expert work for both of them. In the context of a divorce the financial neutral helped both John and Diane prepare various support scenarios so they could determine the tax consequences and how to best maximize nontaxable income for the family as a whole.
The financial neutral also assisted with developing budgets and future cash flow analyses to ensure that settlement options would both allow John and Diane to achieve their individual financial goals. Depending on the facts of the case additional experts may be necessary regardless of whether the case calls for a real estate appraiser or a plumbing expert the parties save money and time in Collaborative Law by hiring one neutral expert.