“When I grow up I want to be divorced…” said no child ever! The reality is, no one has aspirations of making divorce a goal of their adult journey.
Separation isn’t pretty and it isn’t easy, no matter how amicable you are. Conflict is inevitable, but it doesn’t have to be adversarial. Collaborative Law isn’t about glossing over the tough topics and dressing them up in a pretty bow. Collaborative isn’t about avoiding conflict, it is about a concerted mutual commitment to sit with conflict in a respectful manner disentangling it as a collective team led by clients and informed by lawyers and neutral family and financial professionals. Collaborative fundamentally embraces a core Social Work value in our Code of Ethics, the promotion of self-determination.
I’ll use a chapter from my personal separation to illustrate what I mean.
Upon separating, I was provided with a list of lawyers and a little blurb about the practice style of each of them. The labels included “pitbull”, “fierce but fair”, etc. As I phoned each lawyer and shared my story, I knew I had to find one who aligned with my interests, which was not to maximize the financial settlement but to preserve my co-parenting relationship. In my case, this involved not “going after” the family business that had been created by my former husband’s father.
When interviewing lawyers, the “pitbull” couldn’t move beyond what I could potentially be legally entitled to, which was half of my ex-husband’s shares in the family business; the “fierce but fair” lawyer took a less aggressive approach to this issue, but still wanted full disclosure of the business to utilize as a bargaining chip. NO ONE was hearing my story and what I wanted. All these lawyers could see was what I was entitled to, not what I wanted for myself and my family. I knew my ex and his family would always care for my children and my children would inherit their place in the family business. Most importantly, I knew I had a lifetime of co-parenting ahead. An attack on this precious family business that was built by my children’s grandfather was not a step I wanted to take as part of our separation. The lawyer I retained, who was a Collaborative lawyer, was the only one of the five who understood that and was ready to help me with my goals.
Collaborative is driven by the client’s interests and values, not solely the law. It allows clients the opportunity to be creative in their settlement and choose a path that is best suited for their vision of separation for themselves and their family.
In the Collaborative Process, we collectively assess the human, real life ramifications for decisions made during separation. This is essential because separation is not only about dismantling an old life, but also about setting intentions and a tone for how to move forward into a new one.
This post was written by Triena McGuirk.