Lex Familia has been seeing many articles recently concerning the advent of collaborative divorce, which is a system designed to civilize the divorce process. In collaborative divorce, the parties and their lawyers agree to work out the issues, relying on joint professionals such as accountants and social workers, to help them “collaborate” on reaching an agreement. In the event the dialogue breaks down or the issues become irresolvable, the collaborating attorneys must agree to withdraw from the case thus prohibiting them from prosecuting any issues in court. This prohibition serves as an incentive for the lawyers to facilitate as opposed to interfering with a peaceful resolution of the divorce.
David Crary, in an Associated Press article writes, “Lawyers by the thousands want to be part of the trend. ‘Most of us had that moment where we realize the adversarial process is so damaging for the clients — and there’s a recognition that we can do better,’ said Talia Katz, executive director of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals.”
Lex Familia thinks, as an aspirational goal, everyone getting along and playing nicely together is a great notion. However, the reality for the vast majority of people who feel betrayed, frightened, angry and rejected, is that they cannot realistically utilize such a process. Our experience is that great love eroded can’t be resolved by a sterile businesslike negotiation.
Of course divorce lawyers would like to avoid the sloppy and nasty aspect of their jobs that require us to deal with people in crisis; however, to deny the passion of the break up does our clients a disservice.
True legal professionalism requires conflict management, not conflict avoidance. Each case is different, with different emotional dynamics and unique facts and circumstances. Attempting to take all cases under the “let’s be friends” umbrella is as nonsensical as litigating every case as mortal enemies. Divorce lawyers should work to facilitate settlements. However, we need to recognize that sometimes it is in our client’s interests to have the opportunity to tell their story in a controlled setting like a courtroom, in order to avoid outbursts in less controlled settings like the dinner table. We must validate but at the same time discourage the emotions of revenge and anger. To deny them ignores the very real human emotions incident to the death of a marriage.