I receive a fair numer of calls from individuals looking for a lower cost, lower stress means of pursuing their divorce. Some people report that they want mediation, and describe for me what sounds like Collaborative or Cooperative divorce, and vice versa. Despite the sometimes confusion, one point is clear: people are looking for a better path to take that the traditional bitterly litigated divorce. While mediation is helpful, and favored by Illinois judges, Collaborative and Cooperative divorce practice presents some advantages
Mediation and collaborative practice are two very different practices, but they both have at heart the same sensibility: resolving difficult family disputes in a lower conflict manner. The Oklahoma Family Law Blog highlighted these practices in a recent post, on which I have summarized and commented further:
In mediation, there is one ‘neutral’ who helps the disputing parties try to settle their case. The mediator cannot give either party legal advice, and cannot help either side advocate its position. If one side or the other becomes unreasonable or stubborn, or lacks negotiating skill, or is emotionally distraught, the mediation can become unbalanced. A well trained mediator can try to help bring the parties back to the center, and facilitate resolution of disputes that the parties view as unresolvable. However, some mediations end without a resolution, and the parties return to court with no perceived options left but litigation.
Collaborative Law was designed to deal more effectively with all these problems of unresolvable impasse, while maintaining the same absolute commitment to settlement as the sole agenda. Each side has quality legal advice and advocacy built in at all times during the process. Even if one side or the other lacks negotiating skill or financial understanding, or is emotionally upset or angry, the playing field is leveled by the presence of the skilled advocates. It is the job of the lawyers to work with their own clients if the clients are being unreasonable, to make sure that the process stays positive and productive.
Collaborative and Cooperative Divorce practice are really processes, in which the parties and the attorneys are fully and mutually engaged, together. There is guidance, advocacy, and negotiation, all in a respectful and non-litigious environment. Is this a better path? Absolutely, for many individuals seeking a lower conflict, lower cost divorce.