Some people think that if you choose to work out your divorce issues and you agree to not go to court, you have elected to use a nice, simple, easy process. While the process is generally nicer than litigation and is intended to at preserve family relationships (assuming you want or need to), it is not necessarily simple or easy.
If you are considering using Collaborative Law, we want you to have realistic expectations. The preparation and meetings are often difficult and time consuming. Here are some things to keep in mind if you begin the Collaborative process.
1. There will be a number of meetings. People often try to cut back on the meetings, but I can assure you that the attorneys and other professionals do not set up unnecessary meetings. Issues tend to be handled better if we work on them in joint meetings rather than by email or phone calls between attorneys. We always try to limit the meetings, but please work with the professionals if we say we need another meeting.
2. Express what you want. Don't expect your attorney to speak for you. This is not the process where you attorney writes pleadings and makes arguments for you. We want you to speak up for yourself. Your attorney will help you prepare.
3. Each of you must listen to the other side. In court, it often feels like whoever speaks first or loudest is the one the judge will pay attention to. In Collaborative, we want both of you to speak and be heard by the other.
4. Be patient. This may take a while. Even though going to court would probably take 9 to 18 months to reach resolution, people in Collaborative sometimes have unrealistic expectations that the process can be resolved in 2 to 3 meeting over a couple of months. Some minimalist cases can be done that quickly, but most will take 3 or 4 months and some will take more.
5. You must be an active participant. You have to gather information, plan, be creative and suggest solutions. There will be meetings to attend and you may have to study different options. There will be times to meet with your attorney and times to meet with the other professionals. You must speak your mind and tell us what you like or don't like.
6. Be willing to grow. You may need to expand your horizons. Don't settle for the what the law will give you. Ask for more and ask for different solutions. We are talking about a major life event, so look into the future.
7. Expect some discomfort. You will hear some things you don't like. You will be confronted with difficult issues and will have to compromise where you may not want to. Instead of giving up or giving in, you can learn to seek other alternatives and find new solutions that can work for everyone. It's just not the situation where you choose from a menu of possibilities. Sometimes you will need to create a new menu and that may be hard. But, it will be worthwhile.
Having realistic expectations will ensure that the Collaborative process is successful and less stressful for you. Good luck!