Collaborative divorce, as an alternative to traditional litigated divorce, is in the news today.
It certainly sounds attractive, judging by articles in the press. It is less stressful, less expensive, more private and less destructive to the relationship between the two principals.
All this is true enough. Collaborative divorce truly is a team effort. But your outcome will still be better if you choose the right team.
The team consists of the two people seeking an agreement, a licensed mental health professional who acts as a divorce coach, and a financial neutral when necessary. Two collaboratively trained attorneys, each representing one side, complete the team.
Commitment to collaboration
Problems arise when these team members present themselves as steeped in the collaborative approach – but they’re really not. Any professional can add the word “collaborative” to their advertisements. But if they carry over strong competitive instincts from their non-collaborative work – pitting one side against the other, not sharing information, seeking to win at all costs – you will not get the outcome you hoped for. That is why it is imperative that you consult with and retain attorneys and professionals that have taken the collaborative training and who are members of the Massachusetts Collaborative Law Council.
Leila J. Wons is no stranger to this process. As co-chair of the Worcester County Collaborative Law Practice Group, she knows what works and what does not work. Her experience is your best assurance of a clear outcome acceptable to both sides.
Positive mental attitude
Collaborative divorce requires that everyone maintain a respectful attitude, and that the process be fair and transparent.
At the same time, you want your collaborative attorney to be a capable lawyer — experienced, knowledgeable, creative in addressing the problems that present themselves.
Finally, both sides in the divorce have to be open to seeking an honest, respectful, above-board outcome. If one side drags its feet, you will not arrive at the buy-in that makes the collaborative approach succeed.
Attitudes of coercion, domination, or negativity will be major obstacles in achieving the agreement you are after.