The concept underlying our litigation system is one of two sides battling it out. Each party hires a lawyer/gladiator and presses for the most he or she can get. Each seizes every lawful advantage available. The judge or jury watches each side present its case and then decides what the outcome will be.
This is not the way it has to be.
Collaborative Practice offers an alternative.
Collaborative Practice methods focus on reaching a solution that works for everyone involved. The process is non-adversarial and respectful. The parties use their energy and resources to craft a plan for their future rather than spending them on refueling the litigation battle.
What Makes Collaborative Practice Different?
Using the advice of their counsel and other helpful professionals, the parties decide upon the result themselves rather than having a judge or jury choose one for them. They freely disclose all relevant information to each other rather than spending their funds hunting for each other’s information and fighting over whether it should be produced.
|Judge or Jury Controls the Outcome:
Unless parties reach an agreement, the decisions are all made by the judge or, sometimes, the jury. If either party bitterly resents the result it can be very difficult and expensive to persuade that party to comply.
|Parties Control the Outcome:
The plan implemented is one that has been reached by agreement between the parties. Both parties get an outcome that they feel is workable for them.
The court has relatively limited information about the parties and may tend to just pick between a set of standard options it uses, options that reflect the court’s values rather than the parties’. The court is not in a good position to do tax planning to minimize the parties’ tax liability.
|Individualized (Often Better) Outcomes:
Parties use advice from their counsel and neutral experts to find a solution that works for everyone. They use their detailed familiarity with the parties to find solutions that are consistent with the parties’ values, whether or not they are consistent with how the same issues are usually handled in court. They are able to do tax planning and minimize tax liability.
|Fuels Hostility Between the Parties:
After years of fighting it out in court it is harder to get past the anger. This anger makes it harder for the parties to co-parent or even to share the same communities of friends.
|Discourages Hostility Between the Parties:
The process of finding a way to resolve their disputes helps parties move past any anger and learn techniques that can help them resolve any future disagreements.
|Court Controls the Pace of the Process:
The court controls how quickly or slowly the case proceeds, may set trial on very short notice, and may give the parties a very limited amount of time to present their case.
|Parties Control the Pace of the Process:
The parties jointly control how quickly the process proceeds. This usually means that they can choose a pace that fits their needs, but can mean that one party drags out the process.
|More Public Disclosure of Personal Information:
Hearings and litigation records are open to the public, leaving more of the parties’ personal information available to data mining companies or anyone else who may care to look.
|Less Public Disclosure of Personal Information:
Only the final orders are filed with the court, minimizing the amount of personal information that is made available to the public.
|Parties Get Information From Each Other Through the Litigation Process:
The parties exchange information with each other through a formal legal process. This is expensive. The process can allow some parties to use technical arguments or the other party’s lack of funds to hide information. This can create an advantage for a party who is trying to conceal information.
|More Sharing of Information with Each Other at Lower Cost:
Parties voluntarily exchange all relevant information with each other, eliminating the costs usually involved in getting it through the litigation process. This usually means that the parties themselves have access to more information.
A collaborative approach is not right for every case, but all individuals considering family court litigation would be wise to consider whether it would be best for their situation.
Georgia Lord is well-qualified to help you decide whether the Collaborative Law process is a good fit for your situation:
- She is trained in Collaborative Practice methods and is a member of both the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals and the Collaborative Institute of Georgia.
- She also has more than six years of experience inside a busy family court, where she witnessed the advantages and disadvantages of family litigation.