On the latest episode of the Akiona Law Podcast (which can be found here!), we spoke with family law attorney Sara Wahl about what inspired her to focus on Collaborative Law. Though her experiences are her own, anyone who values resolution over conflict will appreciate learning about the Collaborative Law approach to divorce. It includes two individuals and their Collaborative Law lawyers working out a divorce through a series of four-way meetings. Other professionals, such as, a divorce coach, a child specialist, or a financial neutral can make up the Collaborative Law team. (Neutrals are third-party professionals who work toward a positive outcome for both parties as opposed to one achieving results to the other’s disadvantage.)
Unique to Collaborative Law is the parties’ commitment to not litigate their divorce. This commitment is captured by the “participation agreement.” The participation agreement provides that the Collaborative Law lawyers will not go to court. Should either side choose to end the Collaborative Law process and litigate, they must “start over” as their Collaborative Law lawyers cannot represent them in court.
The Logic Behind Collaborative Divorce
Sara noted that when people are informed about the differences between a collaborative divorce and a traditional divorce, most choose a collaborative divorce. Why? Because when given the option, most people prefer staying out of court. In a typical family law case, parties use mediation to keep their divorce out of court. Sara highlighted that mediators are taught about interest-based mediation. Each party’s interests are identified, and the mediator works to find a resolution that speaks to their goals. This means, in a family law mediation, parties are essentially participating in a settlement conference.
Sara commented the reason people settle at a family law mediation is because there is a subtle threat of “The Court” looming in the background. Meaning, if the parties don’t agree, they must go to trial. After spending about 8 to 10 hours in mediation, people are emotionally and mentally exhausted. They agreed to a final parenting plan, but they may later experience “buyer’s remorse;” feeling as if they agreed to something to get it over with and be done. The end result is they may be back in court fighting because they agreed to a parenting plan they didn’t really like. In Collaborative Law, the parties (with the help of a child specialist or divorce coach) create a final parenting plan that everyone can live with and be at peace. The takeaway is the agreements in Collaborative Law are more durable because the parties come up with it themselves.
If there’s a better reason to get into Collaborative Law, you would be hard-pressed to find one better than Sara’s. She was nine years old when her parents divorced, and its fallout significantly affected her childhood. Imagine hearing your mother say, “Your father wouldn’t have left if he loved you.” Sara experienced this as a child, and it is part of what drove her to practice Collaborative Law. Think of Collaborative Law as a specialized toolbox to prevent a divorce from spiraling out of control where it harms the children.
In Sara’s view, the current divorce process is filled with back-and-forth arguing, which fuels fights, aggressiveness, and resentments. The children are usually the ones who have to deal with their parents’ lingering hostility and bitterness long after their parents’ divorce ends. Her belief in the power of Collaborative Law stems from how she sees it as a way to prevent the needless and damaging arguments that tear families apart. Collaborative Divorce lawyers enjoy helping their clients craft durable solutions for themselves and their families.
Commit to Collaborative Divorce
Sara’s experiences are unique, but lawyers practicing Collaborative Law genuinely want to help others work towards long lasting and peaceful solutions. Working with a collaborative team can also be quicker, less expensive, and it lowers the stress, uncertainty, and emotional turmoil that litigation brings. To learn more about the Collaborative Divorce process and how we help you, contact Akiona Law, PLLC, to schedule your consultation.