Ending a marriage or common-law union is never stress-free. Among other things, emotions run high and the legal process can seem overwhelming, especially if it means going to court. But there are ways to lessen the negatives. Here are five things about divorce that can suck and how collaborative law makes it easier.

1. Figuring out a Schedule for Your Children

In divorce cases that go to court, the lawyers and judges involved rarely have a background in child development. When using the full team model in collaborative law, a parenting coach (sometimes two) is involved. The coach talks with both parties, and when age-appropriate the children, to come to an agreement about the best parenting or visitation schedule for everyone involved. Not only is this method generally less costly (hourly rates for coaches are often less than for lawyers) it also results in a better-informed parenting plan. These plans are often very detailed and allow parents to address issues that the coaches have come across on many previous occasions but that the parents might never have considered.

2. Day-to-Day Financial Stress

People don’t save up for a divorce. Often one partner is surprised by the other’s decision and even if they have come to a mutual decision, the reality of meeting the needs of two households, instead of one, is unexpected.

In collaborative law, a neutral financial advisor can be part of the team to help sort out some of the financial unknowns post-separation. These specialists often have deep knowledge about pensions, life insurance, etc., that are outside the knowledge of the average lawyer.

Even when a financial specialist is not part of the team, the collaborative process encourages the parties to map out financial and property solutions in a way that works best to meet everyone’s needs.

3. The Other Party is Hiding Money

The lawyer-client relationship still exists in collaborative files, but the parties sign a collaborative agreement stating that they will be transparent about financial information. This applies whether or not disclosure is requested. This process speeds up financial disclosure and avoids the often needless expense of going to court to get an order for disclosure of information.

Note that if either party doesn’t comply with the agreement about disclosure, that may be grounds for one or more of the collaborative professionals to withdraw from the process.

4. The Other Lawyer is Out to Get Me

When the lawyers sign the collaborative agreement, they must identify and correct any mistakes of any other collaborative professional involved in the case. This condition eliminates the possibility that one party will take advantage of an error made by the other party, which may lead to an unfair result.

For example, if the lawyer for the husband accidentally miscalculates a property equalization in the wife’s favour, the other lawyer in the collaborative process must point out the error (if that lawyer realizes the mistake) regardless of whether it benefits his or her client.

5. Fear of Court

It’s normal to feel anxious about attending court. That feeling comes from factors such as fear of the unknown, fear of the details of one’s personal life becoming public and, most commonly, the fear of a third party making a decision about one’s life.

In collaborative law, the process of planning how to resolve concerns about children and finances is generally outlined at the first meeting. Doing so is always more efficient than resolving such matters through the court system. Court dates are difficult to get and are often months down the road.

When it comes to keeping matters private, collaborative law avoids filing materials with the court that the public can access. Not that everyone is down at the courthouse to look at their neighbour’s file or is reading a recent court decision online, but the ability to keep matters private is critical to most clients.

Finally, collaborative law offers divorcing couples a say in how things get resolved. Parties that end up in court often complain about the lack of control they have over the outcome. Frankly, that is the nature of the beast. If former spouses/common-law partners cannot agree, someone must make a decision. In that case, a justice with The Court of Queen’s Bench of Manitoba is the best option.

pichard pollock small imageBy Richard Pollock

If you have questions about this post or collaborative law in general, contact me today at rpollock@evansfamilylaw.ca