DIVORCE THE COLLABORATIVE WAY

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Often times when married couples file for divorce they get much more than they bargained for.  For one, they can spend thousands of dollars on attorneys’ fees for motions and discovery if the parties are unable to agree upon issues with their former spouses.  Also, the emotional strain of preparing for trial can be devastating to an operating family.

That’s why the idea of collaborative law has found traction in the American legal arena.  The collaborative concept began in the early 90s as a way to proceed through divorce without having to go to court.  Unlike traditional divorces, the collaborative divorce is geared around staying out of court.  The parties sign an agreement that locks their lawyers into negotiating toward a resolution and forces them to withdraw if the matter ends up in court.

Basically, collaborative divorce is an agreement by all parties involved to cooperate.  If they don’t, they lose the money and time invested.  Collaborative lawyers engage in problem solving rather than positional negotiations.  There is no neutral third party like a judge or mediator.  Instead, the parties voluntarily disclose information and work together to achieve a “win-win” rather than a “win-lose” outcome, which is healthier for all parties concerned, including the kids

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MEL GIBSON SETTLEMENT EXEMPLIFIES BENEFITS OF COLLABORATIVE LAW

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One more example of the benefits of Collaborative Law appears in the recent settlement of actor Mel Gibson and his ex girlfriend, Russian musician Oksana Grigorieva.  It’s the one you probably haven’t heard about due to the fact the case has been handled in a most confidential manner, which is what Collaborative Law is all about.

The facts of the settlement aren’t really the interesting part here – Gibson to pay $750,000 to Grigorieva and to continue providing housing and financial support for their young daughter – but the sheer silence that has shrouded their legal proceedings in gossip-rampant Hollywood.  There was no exchanging of barbs through the media or press, and they didn’t exchange every gross detail through court-related pleadings.  They decided to resolve their legal differences the old fashioned way, in confidence.

In 2010, you might remember, Grigorieva had accused Gibson of striking her during a fight, and he had accused her of attempting to extort him.  But that all slipped under the bed sheet of confidentiality.  Now, according to Gibson’s attorneys, they are putting the final touches on his divorce from his wife of 28 years, and seemingly, the parties will then be able to move forward without sharing every gory detail with the public at large.

Which is exactly what Collaborative Law can do for you.

$35 MILLION REASONS TO TRY COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE

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We don’t all have to be like Frank and Jamie McCourt when it comes to divorce.  We don’t have to battle it out in court, in front of the media, and face the daily scrutiny of a world that watches our every move.  In fact, divorces don’t have to be adversarial at all.  To the McCourts, and everyone out there who believes there must be a better way to resolve issues in a divorce than through intense litigation – there is.  It’s called Collaborative Divorce, and there are at least $35 million reasons reasonable adults my want to go this route.

COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE

Collaborative Divorce is a family law sub-specialty that gives people like you, Frank, or Jamie an effective way to resolve your divorce – and other family law issues – in a respectful, dignified manner.  This means neither you nor your lawyer would ever have the need to go to court.  It also means that you and your spouse will never be treated as opposing parties in an adversarial and hostile litigation process.  Instead, the two of you would be able to retain full control of your divorce case.

Your Collaborative attorney can guide you through all the issues that need to be addressed, and they can work diligently with your spouse’s Collaborative lawyer to settle your case.  Your Collaborative attorney will sift through the parties’ differing perspectives and help you develop reasonable alternatives.  You and your spouse will make all the decisions.  The resulting agreement will truly be yours – not one that has been imposed upon you.

The Collaborative Experience

Through the entire collaborative process, lawyer and client work together through each step in searching for a fair settlement for both parties and the entire family.  This is accomplished through a series of meetings between the two parties and their lawyers, and sometimes other neutral experts on an as need basis.

The primary focus of the four-way meetings is to identify your priorities, goals, needs, and interests, and to help you progress toward and create a settlement that is consistent with both spouses’ priorities, goals, needs, and interests.  You make your own decisions based on your own standards, and the Collaborative attorneys provide the professional expertise based on many years of experience and training.

Next time, Frank and Jamie, please consider a Collaborative Divorce, so we, the public don’t have to listen to all your dirty laundry.  There are at least 35 million good reasons to do so.

PRACTICING COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE

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There’s a wide range of options available to families who are undergoing the difficulties of breaking apart.  They range from settlement negotiations between the parties to hostility-filled adversarial litigation. The collaborative option is more akin to mediation than an adversarial contest.  The lawyers involved in the collaborative approach continue to represent their client’s best interests, but the difference is that they have contracted not to go to court at any time during the collaborative process.

This non-hostile approach requires lawyers to work hand-in-hand with their clients in pursuing a just resolution for the myriad of issues they might face.  The client is also required to participate in this process toward resolution.  The lines of communication between lawyer and client are critical to success.  Sometimes, this can be a very creative process, especially for those who come to the table with an open mind.  Collaborative lawyers are specially trained in ‘interest-based’ communication and negotiation skills.  They have to be prepared to share the controlling interest in the case with their clients and be ready to integrate the expertise of other family law professionals, when the case might call for it.

What separates the collaborative process from formal mediation is that the collaborative attorney must be willing to work with their client in an effort to bring them closer to the decision-making process.  The parties are encouraged to take responsibility for their proposed outcome.

Collaborative lawyers are also required to work ethically in a cooperative manner with one another to ensure both parties are playing fairly in the process – which includes full disclosure.  The difficult part of the process is that if negotiations should reach a dead-end, both lawyers must withdraw from the case, leaving the clients with the need to seek new attorneys to represent them through the adversarial system in family law court.

COLLABORATIVE LAW

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One of the growing areas of family law (both in California and around the nation) centers on the idea of collaboration instead of litigation. Collaborative law, also known as Collaborative Divorce, and Collaborative Practice, derives from the desire of parties who do not want to go to court and engage in an emotional legal battle.

The collaborative process, when done correctly, helps the parties avoid the debilitating process of litigation, which often exacerbates family disputes rather than healing or resolving them. What distinguishes collaborative divorce from hostile litigation is the concept of a collaborative process – one that not only includes collaborative attorneys, but also other team members from other professional disciplines, who are sometimes referred to as the interdisciplinary team.

The unique outcome one can anticipate from the collaborative process is that of an agreed upon settlement formula that works fairly for both sides. Both sides take a “want” list into negotiations, and both sides have to chisel away until all issues are agreed upon. Instead of litigating every single aspect of an agreement, the parties and their counsels work out an amicable solution. The collaborative attorneys work hard to generate a fair settlement, which allows the family to move forward in a healthy and constructive way.