WLKY Channel 32 in Louisville has run a report on Collaborative Divorce, a process in which the husband and wife attempt to work out their differences outside the courtroom. The report, which aired last night, quotes divorce lawyer Billy Hoge:
“Litigation’s tough,” Hoge said. “It’s hard on people. It’s very expensive. It’s very entrenching. It makes people take positions and sometimes those positions are not in their best interest. I call collaborative law, very simply, enlightened self-interest.”
The report also quotes divorce lawyer Russ Zane:
“Inevitably, in those kinds of situations, children intentionally or unintentionally become weapons that one parent uses over the other,” divorce attorney Russ Zaino said. “Collaborative divorce removes that process and allows the parties to work this out with the minimum of emotional damage, and maximizes the opportunity for a fair settlement for both sides.”
Here’s how the report describes the Collaborative Divorce process:
“The underlying foundation is that the parties enter into an agreement at the outset of the case that they will not go to court,” divorce attorney and therapist Nora Bushfield said. “If they do, then the attorneys have to withdraw, and the parties have to find litigation attorneys to continue with the representation.”
The parties also agree to disclose all money matters, and work together — collaborate — to reach a compromise. The attorneys call on divorce “coaches,” financial consultants and mental health professionals to teach problem-solving and other skills and help resolve conflicts when they do arise, Moses reported.
“This process actually gives them the privacy and confidentiality to work on their difficulties outside the purview of the court,” Bushfield said. “It is in a facilitative way, so they can be calm. They have the coaches to help them deal with some emmotional issues and keep focused on the work that has to be done.”
My concern about Collaborative Divorce is that it’s a solution well-suited for divorcing spouses with lots of money but doesn’t tend to work as well for the vast majority of people who need to divorce. Why do I say that? Because the core of the Collaborative Divorce model is the involvement of multiple professionals: financial planners and accountants to deal with the money negotiations, therapists to deal with the issues involving children, and (of course) the watchful guidance of $300 per hour attorneys throughout the process.
I’m confident that some couples benefit from Collaborative Divorce. I’m also confident that it’s at best an incomplete solution to the problems our culture faces with divorce, because it’s useful for such a small segment of the population.