Authored By: Christopher Pearsall, RI Divorce Attorney
a.k.a. " The Rhode Island Divorce Coach ℠ "
About five (5) years ago I didn't know what a collaborative divorce was. Once I learned about it I wasn't so keen on the concept. It was something new and different. People tend to shy away from things that are "new" and "different."
Frankly, I didn't want to make it harder for me to compete for the family law business in Rhode Island by adding something new to what I already do as a lawyer. So I decided to stay away from it.
Strangely enough, I ended up pioneering a whole new type of practice that I developed called "Divorce Coaching." Needless to say, it took a long time before I realized that I was introducing something that was not only "new" but something that was so new only I was doing it and because the lawyers I approached didn't want to participate because they wouldn't make enough money I became as "different" as you can get.
Despite the fact that it was different and unexpected from a family law lawyer to actually coach people on how to help themselves and know their right that I discovered many people would just not show up if they did make an appointment. Suffice it to say, the coaching practice was a hit and collaborative divorce is likewise doing well around Rhode Island but across the nation.
I am no longer hesitant of pioneering new avenues law that some people may shy away from. So let me get to it.
So, though it's been around now for some time, what is a good understanding of collaborative law?
Typically in a collaborative law process the following things occur:
1. The parties each retain separate attorneys whose job it is to help them settle the dispute. Both the parties and the attorneys sign a Collaborative Law agreement to that end.
2. No one may go to court without a completed settlement agreement. If that should occur, the collaborative law process terminates, both attorneys are disqualified from any further involvement or representation in the case and the parties must retain other lawyers if they wish to battle in court.
3. The Collaborative Agreement is a fundamental part of the process in which both parties by signing the agreement resolve themselves to the process whereby they are trying to identify issues and resolve them in an amicable manner with the assistance of their requisite lawyers to insure they are advised of the law and their legal rights.
4. The agreement typically requires each party to make a full, complete and honest disclosure of all documents and information involved in the case and neither party can take advantage of a misunderstanding or a failure to disclosure information. Such things are dealth with and usually correct to both parties' satisfaction.
5. The agreement usually references the parties' dedication to enter this process to respect one another and not to disparage either party during the process since doing so is destructive to it.
6. The agreement typically has paragraphs focusing on insulating any minor children both from the collaborative law process and the divorce process in the event of a successful resolution.
7. The parties typically agree to share the cost of all experts such as counselors, appraisers, child specialists, etc.
It is a fundamental part of the collaborative law process that the emotional issues of the parties that often cause difficult litigations are not ignored as they are in the typical court process but rather they are addressed, often using professionals from other appropriate fields so that all aspects of a divorce can be dealt with so that the divorce is addressed on all levels and an agreement is reached considering all the factors and not simply the legal ones.
There are proponents and opponents to this type of collaborative law process each with their own points and counterpoints. Yet the concept itself is solid and recognizes not only the persons involved but the uniqueness of preserving the relationships involved with destruction of any of the persons involved.
I can see how this might well work for those with the financial means and/or health insurance coverage for possible counselors, etc... who value their family unit and wish to have their divorce end on a positive note rather than a negative one, with the goal of respecting the feelings of everyone involved and preserving the relationships that exist
Having spent some time trying to understand what appear to be varying concepts of collaborative law, I find this explanation to be the best with the only hindrance in some cases being the cost that may be needed to address all aspects of a divorce or family law matter.
Yet if parties are going to address everything that is important in a divorce relating to themselves, and their children, it serves a positive function to pull all aspects into this collaborative law approach so that fundamental aspects of both the legal and emotional process of divorce are not ignored but are addressed so that the entire process results in a divorce which seeks to perserve all persons involved both legally, financially and mentally and hopefully their relationships as well.
So, whether you may not want to consider something new and different as it is in our nature to go with something that is typically more "familiar" and "comfortable" for us, sometimes it is best to open our eyes to new things which may, in fact, be better for us in the long run.
I have no doubt that collaborative divorce and divorce coaching are both here to stay.