I was first trained in Collaborative Divorce in 2000. I realized that I had always been handling my cases in a style similar to collaborative. My goal was to help clients come to a solution that was custom made for their family and not based upon what a judge, who does not know the family, decided was best for their children.
What have you learned about this process over the years?
I’ve done between 100-150 collaborative cases. Over that time I’ve learned, that the more cases we do, as professionals, the more comfortable we become in being creative in the solutions we offer to our clients. The more we do, the more we have clients come up with great ideas, that we can then share with other families. I just think we’ve gotten better at thinking outside the box in helping these families really come up with custom made solutions.
What does a custom made solution mean for those families?
Well, the hope, is that it means that they are less likely to have to come back into the judicial process. We give them mechanisms for avoiding that. As children age, things can change. We try to give them the tools to come up with those solutions as their kids age, without having to come back into the judicial system.
You obviously have had a lot of clients who have been through this process. Do you hear back from them about how things are going?
I had a unique opportunity on a case I did about 10 or 11 years ago. The mom ended up living in my small town with the two daughters who were near in age to my kids. That’s been a unique story that I’ve gotten to follow for the last decade. I went to both kids’ graduations. I worked in the concession stand and saw that both parents could work with each other in the concession stand as well. That’s been a lot of fun.
I’ve also heard from one particular client who opted out of a collaborative divorce. This person came to me and said, “If you ever have a client that wants to opt out, have them call me and I can tell them why that’s a really bad idea.” She has actually talked to two of my clients who were considering opting out, because they though litigation was better. She convinced them that it was the biggest mistake she ever made. She convinced them to stay in the process.
For people who go through litigation, being cordial or working together are almost an impossibility, correct?
I’ve never seen it happen. Never say never, but I’ve not seen that happen. Usually, back in the old days your parents would say, “Sticks and stones will break your bones, but words will never hurt you.” That is so not true. What I have realized in family law cases is what people say in the courtroom or in depositions is devastating to the family. You can’t take it back. No, you usually don’t see that type of working together in cases that have gone to litigation.