Collaborative divorce can be a better alternative to a traditional court-room divorce. Let’s first take a look at some of the common myths of divorce.
MYTH #1 – DIVORCING COUPLES SHOULD FIND THE BEST TRIAL ATTORNEY AND BATTLE IT OUT IN COURT
In a 2002 court case, Diaz v. Diaz, 826 So 2d 229 (Fla 2002), the Florida Supreme Court expressed its frustration with pointless, ongoing litigation and the destruction of the marital estate in the traditional adversarial process.
It went further, stating that divorce attorneys should begin alternative dispute resolution processes as quickly as possible. Early intervention to minimize emotional harm and roadblocks to a negotiated settlement must be a priority.
Orlando divorce lawyers should represent clients in interest-based negotiation to foster reasonable negotiated settlements. Lawyers should minimize the destruction of the marital estate. In other words, divorce attorneys should not encourage further spending of family funds to continue the litigated court battle. Why?
Because when a married couple fights in court over their shared assets, there is less and less for the family and the children at the end of the day.
Are you going to choose a divorce attorney that holds on to the old processes and approaches? Or are you going to choose a divorce lawyer who has education, training, and experience in the new skill areas that the Florida Supreme Court wants?
Does it make sense to choose a lawyer who does not understand and acknowledge your feelings? Does it make sense to choose a divorce attorney who will not help you through the emotional turmoil of a stressful divorce? Or does it make more sense to choose a lawyer who understands the feelings, emotions, and psychology of conflict? Collaborative divorce can be a better alternative because it places a value on your feelings and emotions.
MYTH #2 – DIVORCE MEANS PREPARING FOR TRIAL AND LETTING A JUDGE DECIDE WHAT IS BEST FOR MY FAMILY
The Florida Supreme Court has made it clear that the goal of family law practice is to have divorcing couples negotiate their own settlement based upon the family’s interests. So why would one choose a lawyer who focuses on trial preparation to bring the family to court for a judge decide what is the right settlement for the family?
In my humble opinion, most people don’t like to be told what to do. Most people prefer to be in control. When we are children, we need adults to tell us what to do and not do. Does it make sense that divorcing couples and their respective attorneys should automatically default to preparing for a court battle? The collaborative divorce process is your process, and you remain in control.
MYTH #3 – COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE IS A GIMMICK, SIMPLY A MONEY-MAKING OPPORTUNITY FOR SAVVY LAWYERS
In 1965, Florida family law was written with the intention that we should promote the amicable settlement of disputes. Studies have demonstrated that conflict between parents is the primary cause of destruction to children of divorce.
The Collaborative process was proposed by a practicing family law lawyer in 1990 as an alternative process for divorcing couples. He suggested that it would minimize the emotional harm to the spouses, the children and the family, and the lawyers as well.
Like mediation and negotiated settlement, the collaborative process is an alternative dispute resolution mechanism that provides a way for spouses to remain in control over the settlement of issues and interests important to the future success of the family. In my opinion, collaborative divorce can be a better alternative.
Some suggest that all lawyers are trained to be aggressive and to focus on winning as a result of intense competition in the courtroom. It is further suggested by some that lawyers rise at the beginning of each day thinking of ways to “win our cases.” This is simply not factually based, nor a true, all-encompassing representation of lawyers.
The truth, from my perspective, is that lawyers are trained to be zealous advocates for their clients. This is not an option, in fact, it is a requirement in our Rules of Professional Responsibility. Zealous advocacy is not a synonym for either “aggressive” or “competitive.”
One dictionary provides that zealous means enthusiastic, passionate, earnest, spirited, devoted, eager or impassioned. I would suggest that one could be all of these things without the need for aggression or intense competition.
Personally, I do not rise everyday thinking of how to win my cases. Rather, I rise each morning thinking of how blessed I am to be in a position to help my clients accomplish their goals while minimizing destruction to themselves, their children, their families, their friends, and society as a whole. The collaborative process is not about winning. Rather, it is about helping divorcing couples transition their family to a new reality.
I focus on counseling my clients on all the processes and procedures available to help them accomplish their goals in a family law case. To win is not the be-all-end-all.
MYTH #4 – THE GOAL IS TO WIN
First of all, what does it mean to win? Again, I turn to a dictionary to find that there are at least 9 different suggested meanings for the word “win.” What is the client’s definition of “win?”
Is it that he pays the least amount of child support possible? Or is it that he pays the least amount of alimony possible?
That is the definition that matters most. For many divorcing couples, winning means to restructure the family to ensure continue success in the future without devastation and destruction to the individual family members and the family unit.
If your definition of “win” is to take in battle or to claim victory over the loser, then by all means, find a lawyer who will focus on your definition of “win” and who wakes up everyday ready to pursue aggressive tactics and intense competition in the courtroom.
If your definition of “win” does not involve victory over your spouse and is more in tune with an amicable resolution of the restructuring of your family, then find a lawyer with the skills and training that the Florida Supreme Court is requesting of family law attorneys; lawyers who place a priority on helping clients achieve an amicable resolution without the use of protracted litigation.
If society continues to do the same things it has always done, is it reasonable to expect the results of our efforts to change? The word divorce has a terribly negative connotation to it for many reasons. One reason is that many people believe the first myth – that it requires a really good trial attorney to battle it out in court to claim victory.
Another reason is because many believe the myth that hiring a divorce attorney means preparing for trial. Some believe that relegating the determination of the best interests of the family to a judge. Finally, divorce continues to be an ugly situation because people are unaware of the benefits that collaborative divorce provides.
Divorce is a reality. Destruction of the family and complete devastation of the family assets does not need to be a reality of divorce. Collaborative divorce can be a better alternative. It provides an opportunity for a healthy, amicable restructuring of the family for future success. The choice is yours. Choose wisely. For the results of your choice will likely remain with you forever.