WE HELP FAMILIES RESOLVE CONFLICT PEACEFULLY


Monday, September 21, 2009

The Huxtable's Divorce: Collaborative Law, Mediation or Litigation - Part II

The Huxtables and Collaborative Law:

Cliff is a doctor and Clare is a lawyer. They have five children. They both share in parenting and managing the finances. Cliff's office is located in the home. Some of the children live at home but the number is constantly changing because Clare and Cliff keep their doors open to their children.

Clare recently informed Cliff that she has met another lawyer who she feels has more in common with and she wants a divorce. Cliff is shocked but after dealing with the initial shock, he realizes that he does not want the process to be acrimonious or to affect their relationship with the children. He has seen how other doctors have had their families and practices torn apart by drawn out litigation and does not want his children or patients to suffer.

Both Clare and Cliff consult with attorneys and are informed of the possibility of proceeding through mediation, collaborative law or litigation. Although, Cliff is wary of litigation, he is afraid of mitigation because Clare is a lawyer and he feels she would have an advantage. He agrees to hire a lawyer trained in Collaborative Law and requests that Clare does the same.

Cliff's lawyer presents a proposed Collaborative Law agreement in which both Cliff's attorney and Clare's attorney agree not to represent the parties if they change their mind and decide to litigate. Clare sees the value in having two attorneys who are vested in the settlement and would be motivated to avoid litigation.

Clare, Cliff and their attorneys meet ten times over the next twelve months. At times the process seems to be dragging and Cliff becomes very frustrated with the significant difference in values presented by his expert and Clare's expert for both his medical practice and Clare's interest in her law firm. He feels like they are spending too much money on experts and lawyers and are no closer to a settlement.

Clare has become very defensive in the Collaborative Law meetings because Cliff has begun requesting more and more restrictions on the parenting plan with the children, which has become overly complicated in her opinion. She feels that Cliff is trying to punish her for having an affair and not focused on what is best for their children.

Both Clare and Cliff explore litigation with new attorneys but because of the cost already invested with their Collaborative Law attorneys, they agree to give it another try and after two more meetings they are able to reach a Separation Agreement, which is presented to the Court with a Joint Petition for Divorce.

Cliff remains very bitter after the process because of the very high cost spent by both parties on their counsel and the length of time the process took.

COULD THIS HAVE GONE BETTER: Because of Cliff's fears and Clare's legal expertise it is unlikely this process could have gone much better. It is probable that Mediation, if successful, would have been a much quicker and cheaper process. But it is also possible that Mediation would have failed because of the imbalance of power between Cliff and Clare when it comes to their legal knowledge (although financially they are probably on fairly equal footing). Depending on the mediator and their style, Cliff's anger over Clare's affair could also have hampered this process.

Because of the business interests and the difficulty of assigning values to their business when they represent both assets and income, they could have been better served by having one agreed upon business valuator. This could have been done by the Collaborative Law attorneys or through mediation. Separate business valuations can often drive up the cost of a case, whether in Collaborative Law or Litigation.


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