The collaborative approach to divorce, when it proceeds as it is intended, is a respectable option for completing a divorce. There are, however, drawbacks to every approach, and collaborative law is not without its flaws. One such flaw is the tendency of collaborative law to attract inexperienced attorneys.
As the name implies, the collaborative approach is designed for parties who are able to work together in a non-confrontational manner toward the common goal of ending their marriage. The parties agree up-front to proceed with honesty and in good-faith, and so approaches associated with traditional divorce such as courtroom appearances and extensive, detailed collection of financial information on a case, may be severely curtailed.
These characteristics of the approach are the very things that attract young, inexperienced attorneys to exclusively practice collaborative law. Traditional divorce, or litigation, involves appearing and defending a client in a courtroom in front of a judge. Through years of unique cases and familiarity with specific judges and how they rule on particular matters, a traditional attorney gains valuable knowledge and the ability to represent and defend a client if matters become confrontational. Many collaborative attorneys have limited or no courtroom experience, and are not comfortable or effective in a situation where conflict may exist. These inexperienced attorneys are noticeably at a disadvantage when up against an attorney with traditional courtroom experience, and they may even avoid working with attorneys who present a challenge.
Additionally, relying on the divorcing couple’s agreement in writing to participate in good faith and to respect the collaborative process takes the pressure off of an attorney. For example, there is no requirement to request and collect extensive financial information on the parties, known as the “discovery process” in traditional divorce. It is not surprising that this “short cut” of collaborative divorce is attractive to an unseasoned attorney, but nevertheless, it is an area in which a client should want their attorney to have had experience should the need arise to delve deeper into the parties’ finances.
The very nature of the collaborative process is attractive to attorneys who are just starting out and who want to avoid the approaches of traditional divorce that may entail confrontational aspects. It is crucial when searching for an attorney, especially a collaborative attorney, that you are confident your attorney not only has collaborative skills, but also has the experience and ability to represent you in any situation.