Two weeks ago, I posted the trailer for the new documentary called “Divorce Corp.” The movie is a stinging indictment of the family-law system in Atlanta, Georgia. As I said then, I don’t think the situation in Arkansas has descended that low. I have not witnessed the widespread corruption and exorbitant fees here, and most of the family lawyers that I encounter are gracious people who want the best for both parties.
But we are not perfect. Family-law litigation in Arkansas is still litigation—it is inherently adversarial and promotes conflict between the parties and their attorneys.
There are many alternatives to litigation—mediation and arbitration being the two most common. Another option is one with which most people are less familiar: Collaborative Law.
Collaborative law is different from other methods in that it is a deliberate choice by the parties to reject conflict and pursue an agreed-upon settlement outside the court system. Although most family-law issues do end up settling before going to court, collaborative law requires settlement. In collaborative law, litigation is never even an option.
Collaborative Law is a fundamentally different way of solving family-law issues. It forces the parties to reject the traditional ugliness that can accompany family-law disputes:
Instead of attempts to hide your assets, Collaborative Law encourages transparency
Instead of trying to find ways to hurt your spouse, Collaborative Law moves beyond fault and past grievances
Instead of bringing children into the mix, Collaborative Law shields children from the parties’ disagreements with each other
Collaborative Law begins with parties who want to reject conflict in favor of peace. Each party hires his or her own attorney, who must be committed to the Collaborative Law approach. One of the most important aspects of Collaborative Law is that the attorneys cannot represent the parties if one of them decides to go to court. For that reason, each party and each lawyer has a compelling incentive to make sure that the parties work out their differences and reach a mutually agreeable solution.
The Collaborative Law process often uses experts in order to help the parties and their lawyers understand the situation. Unlike traditional litigation, these experts are not the “hired guns” for one party; instead, they work for both parties.