As an attorney who practices both Collaborative Divorce and traditional litigation I experience both the cause and the effect of the breakdown of the collaborative process.
The main reasons that I see for the breakdown of the process is as follows:
- Improper Initial Screening: A failure by the attorneys to properly understand the parties’ interpersonal dynamics and personalities. With good attorneys and good support personel most spouses can utilize the collaborative process. In situations where one party or the other cannot or will not share information in good faither; where one party or the other has been physically abusive; or where there is a complete lack of reasonableness, the collaborative process will not work. Many times a potential client will want to use the process, but doesn’t understand why he/she or the other party will not be able to do so effectively.
- Unrealistic Expectations: Many parties look into the Collaborative Process to save money or because they want something that they know a court cannot provide. These can be outcomes that result from the process, but not in every situation. If a party is unwilling to accept or back away from an unrealistic expectation the process will not work. This will result in both higher costs and a longer process.
What happens next. After the breakdown, the parties need to look for new traditional legal counsel and start the whole discovery and information gathering process anew. This is costly and frustrating. In addition, one party or another may be in a worse position than had the collaborative process never started in the first place. This can be very upsetting to clients and can be a potential source of problems for the initial collaborative attroney if he/she failed to properly screen the case.
If you are looking into the collaborative process, it is a terrific way to work through a difficult legal issue, just be sure that you ask your attorney, or your client, some tough questions to make sure the process is the correct one for your situation.