Most people like to make decisions about their own lives. In fact, psychologists tell us that we are healthier when we can make our own decisions. However, despite our best intentions, sometimes disputes end up in court where someone else will make decisions about our lives – the judge.
During the lawsuit, each side can make arguments about how it wants things to turn out, but the judge has the final say in shaping the outcome of the dispute. At the end of the lawsuit, the judge issues an order that legally binds the parties to everything he or she has decided. This often leaves people feeling trapped because important parts of their lives are now defined by a court order they had no hand in shaping.
Collaborative law is a way to help people stay in control of decisions about their own lives. In a collaborative process, the parties and their attorneys sit down together outside of court and look for creative solutions that benefit both sides. Since they typically know more about themselves and about each other than a stranger in a black robe will ever know about them, they can make their settlement fit their particular circumstances better than a judge might be able to do.
Of course, the collaborative process does not work for everyone. Sometimes a dispute is so contentious that the parties will not be able to shape a settlement agreement to their mutual advantage. In those cases, it may be necessary to fight it out in court and leave the final decision in the hands of a judge.
People who can sit down at a table with the opposing party and collaborate on a resolution of their dispute will be able to keep more control over their own lives. Their agreement will still be legally binding, because they submit it to the court where it is incorporated into a traditional enforceable judgment, but they can be more confident that the terms of that judgment are better suited to their unique situation.
Couples around the world have chosen collaborative family law because they wanted to make decisions about their own circumstances that will keep them from getting caught up in a lawsuit. Once litigation begins, it can leave the parties feeling like they are no longer in control, but dragged along by a process that often seems unsympathetic and unfair.
The difficulty of divorce comes from untying all the knots created in the marriage. Litigation only adds to the entanglement. Even worse, in most cases, it feels more like the court is cutting those knots than untying them. Most divorces will not be pain free. But if divorcing spouses are able to stay in control and make their own decisions, then the outcome can be far less damaging to them, their children, their families, and their friends.
The decision is yours. If you choose traditional divorce litigation, your decision making power will soon end, but if you choose collaborative divorce your decision making power has just begun.