War or Peace For Your Divorce? Choose to Collaborate!
Would you wish a world in the midst of war, countries constantly battling, threatening to bomb each other, their citizens being physically and emotionally brutalized, if not killed, their children being torn from their homes, their families, and friends, suffering even more? Or would you choose a peaceful world in which folks may not agree, but they live compatibly side-by-side, making choices based on what is right for, not only themselves, but for their communities? Peace sounds more appealing, am I right?
Families Shouldn’t Go To War
So why would you choose war for your family? Many people do because they don’t know that there are other options. Many family law attorneys do not realize that they should inform consults of all of their divorce process options; in fact, it may be legal malpractice not to do so. Instead, the majority of divorce lawyers explain litigation to new clients, never giving them the option of collaborative or cooperative approaches to their divorce. Sure, these lawyers may discuss mediation as an option, but they likely do so by explaining that it is just a required part of the litigation process.
And when they describe litigation, they likely do not explain how hard it really is, how much it can cost, and the destruction that it can have on already fragile family relationships. If lawyers told people how it really is, it’s hard to believe that anyone would actually choose to litigate.
Choose To Co-Parent
I used to be one of those trial attorneys who ardently fought for my clients, excited to win battles, and eventually, the war, but never really thinking about how my efforts were impacting the family. But, even if you win the custody your client wants, or the home, or the alimony, if the result is that the ex-spouses can no longer stand to be in the same room together, is this really a win? Wouldn’t families be better served divorcing in a manner in which the resolutions are more equitable, and the spouses learn positive behaviors along the way that help them to co-parent and communicate?
Don’t Wage A Divorce War — Collaborate
Aren’t the families that come out of a divorce able to enjoy their children’s graduations and weddings together the ones who have really won?
When I discovered collaborative practice, my view on winning changed. Collaborative practice is a form of alternative dispute resolution in which a team of professionals helps a family to reach a fair resolution that considers both clients’ most important goals and interests. Rather than waging war against one another, spouses and parents are encouraged to work together towards a resolution, while learning skills that will help them deal with one another and with others in the future. Clients who engage in collaborative divorces finalize their divorces more quickly, spend less money, and end up in post-judgment litigation less frequently.
So, if you decide that you must divorce, learn your divorce process options. Don’t go to war against your family; choose the peaceful option. Choose to collaborate.
Joryn, attorney and Open Palm Founder, began her own firm here in Tampa after a 14-year career in law, 2 of which she served as a professor of law at Stetson University. She is a recipient of the prestigious A. Sherman Christensen Award, an honor bestowed upon those who have provided exceptional leadership to The American Inns of Court Movement. For more information on Joryn’s professional experience, take a look at her resume.