Divorce is difficult, even for the most amicable couples. This is because, in reality, there is not one divorce, but three divorces which occur at the same time, and are intertwined affecting each other:
- The legal divorce
- The financial divorce
- The emotional divorce
The Collaborative Law process is an alternative choice to litigation or mediation which addresses the “three divorces”.
Why Collaborative Law?
Collaborative Law grew out of the recognition that some litigation, like nuclear war, is unwinnable. Parties and their attorneys often find themselves saying the same thing: even when we win, we lose. The costs, when measured in lost relationships, lost productivity and attorney’s fees, far too often outweigh the gains. Despite this recognition, we still get trapped by our adversarial reflexes and in our adversarial methods. Angry clients instinctively turn to the Courts with demands for justice. Justice rarely occurs in the Courtroom in a way that both parties are happy with.
The Collaborative process allows each party to negotiate using interest-based negotiation/mediation principals while having their attorneys at their side every step of the way to achieve a fair and acceptable agreement. People in Collaborative Law cases do not use unfair advantages or “jockeying” for position to force an unsustainable settlement. So often, children become the unintended victims in divorce proceedings. In collaborative divorce cases, the parties pledge at the beginning of the process to insulate their children from the proceedings and to act in such a way as to minimize the impact of divorce on them. One of the best features of Collaborative Law is not that it avoids litigation, but that it avoids hasty and soon-regretted last-minute settlements driven by the schedule and demands of litigation. The parties often enter into temporary agreements on particular issues and “test drive” the terms.
What parties can realistically hope to do by using Collaborative Law is reduce the antagonistic feelings that result from a hard-fought battle, and increase a genuine sense of resolution. They can hope for significant savings in cost of litigation. They can expect much more willing compliance with the terms of the collaboratively reached agreement than the terms of an imposed Court Order. They can expect, privacy, integrity, and respect from one another and from their attorneys, so that the parties have a continuing, if not improved relationship with the other party.
The Collaborative Law process involves four-way meetings with the lawyers and the clients. Collaborative settlement conferences follow pre-agreed plans. No one is rushed through the process. On the other hand, firm dates are set for settlement conferences. When needed, there is typically a short-term agreement at the beginning about issues such as temporary support and attorney’s fees.
In Collaborative Law each spouse has an attorney who is also an experienced negotiator and provides legal advice and explanations to the client on the spot. Collaborative lawyers and their clients approach each other and their disputes with a written commitment not to sue or even threaten to sue. Each party makes a formal commitment to finding a way to resolve the dispute in a manner that is also acceptable to the other, even if the process of doing so is extremely difficult.
The focus is on obtaining a fairly negotiated result while reducing conflict between the parties. On average, the cases are settled and a written agreement is in place within two to three months. In cases where Collaborative Law has been used, even if reluctantly and hard fought, there have been more rapid settlements at a fraction of the normal cost associated with litigation.
For more information about how our family law attorneys can help ease the process of divorce, please call Hoover Penrod PLC at 540-433-2444 to schedule a consultation at our Harrisonburg office. We serve the Virginia communities of Winchester, Staunton, and all nearby areas.