The Toronto Star did a great article about clients wanting to cut the costs of divorce by staying out of court. I especially like the introduction:
“Alex Crookes knew he was in for a divorce with a difference the minute he walked into a lawyer’s office with his ex-wife, Lynne Maclennan.
The couple instinctively sat at opposite sides of the table, until one of their lawyers, trained in the relatively new concept of collaborative family law, set a more comfortable tone for the talks.
“The first thing the lawyer said was, `Sit next to each other,'” says Crookes, 37.”
I can’t say I actually insist that clients sit next to each other during four way meetings but I certainly do my best to help them understand that they should be working from the same side of the table – figuratively speaking.
What I mean by that is that clients sometimes think that divorce has to be a battle. I try to help them realize that they actually share the problems with their spouse, everyone wants to resolve the issues and they can work together to find a resolution that works for both of them.
Court is a battle. Each side is supposed to show the strengths of their own position and the weakness of the other. The judge is then asked to choose between the two sides or do his/her best to come up with a just resolution. Often neither party is happy with the results and the costs can be staggering.
In the Collaborative process, the clients work together to find a mutually acceptable agreement. The power to make decisions stays with the clients instead being given to the judge.
The International Association of Collaborative Professionals has an excellent description of the Collaborative process.
I won’t ask you to sit next to your spouse in the Collaborative process but I like the way this Toronto lawyer is thinking.