By Attorney Henry Gornbein
Special to THELAW.TV
The collaborative law practice has been developing in many states in recent years. It is called divorce with an eye to the future. Remember that your marriage may be ending, but your family still goes on. I am trained in collaborative divorce law and have seen its benefits first hand.
Here is how it works. The clients will go to attorneys who are trained in the collaborative approach. The husband will have his collaborative attorney and the wife will have hers. In some cases, there will be a mediator who is trained in collaborative law, as well as accountants or other financial people who become involved as well. Where there are children, there can be a therapist or other person trained to assist with regard to custody and visitation/parenting time issues, in order to resolve these in an amicable and non-confrontational manner.
In the collaborative approach, the parties and their team will enter into an agreement that they will meet and not file for the divorce until a settlement of all issues is reached and reduced to writing. If a settlement cannot be reached, the penalty is that the attorneys, financial experts, and every other member of the team must resign from the case and then the couple is free to retain lawyers for traditional litigation. This is so important because it encourages you to stay out of court and meet to resolve all issues.
In the collaborative approach, there will be homework assignments given to everyone between meetings to narrow the issues, making sure that everything is fully disclosed, all issues are covered, and everyone's rights are fully protected.
Collaborative law is not for everyone, but it works.
In one case, I represented the wife of a professional in a long-term marriage where there was one minor child. It took several meetings over a number of months, but we were able to resolve everything before the divorce was filed. This included complicated financial issues involving a professional practice, spousal support (alimony), retirement accounts, and several homes. If we had gone through traditional litigation, the clients would have spent many more thousands of dollars in attorney and expert fees, not to mention the emotional toll that traditional litigation would have taken on this couple. I have seen it work in numerous situations and feel that it is a great way for people who are willing to work together with trained professionals to end their marriages in a civil and dignified manner, without going through the extra thousands of dollars and trauma that a court battle will entail. Rather than losing control and having a stranger in a black robe decide your fate and that of your children, collaborative law is a useful tool where you can tailor a result that fits you, your spouse, and your children. That is critical.
The author, Henry Gornbein, is a divorce attorney in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.