Collaborative Process (also called Collaborative Law) is one of five possible processes a couple can use to resolve their family law issues to negotiate an acceptable agreement with professional help. The comparisons below demonstrate the various dispute resolution mechanisms, and how the Collaborative Process differs from the other options.
Collaborative vs. Direct (DIY) Discussion : Often, people believe that the “do-it-yourself” approach to resolving family disputes is the least expensive and most effective option. While DIY may appear to be the cheapest approach, in the long run it is often more expensive because the agreements made are not durable and enforceable. Additionally, while Maryland allows an expedited divorce, a couple with a DIY agreement often cannot qualify for the uncontested divorce due to deficiencies in their agreement. What was intended to be an inexpensive and quick resolution to your dispute becomes a drawn out and expensive process to correct the deficiencies. Also, people using the DIY approach may be giving up, or waiving, important legal rights they did not know they had under Maryland law because they did not have legal advice. The Collaborative Approach provides the ability for spouses or participants to communicate directly with each other while also having legal advice and obtaining a settlement agreement that can be used to expedite your divorce.
Collaborative vs. Mediation : Mediation is generally more appropriate for cases of a less complex nature. It is an effective tool if there is equal bargaining power between the parties, and the parties have the ability to advocate for themselves at the table without professional support. If you have an attorney, he or she frequently does not participate in mediation which results in getting legal advice after the agreement has been drafted. If revisions are necessary following attorney review of the mediated agreement, the agreement may fall apart, resulting in expensive litigation. The Collaborative Approach allows attorneys to be at the negotiation table with you while still allowing you and your spouse to communicate directly. Moreover, the Collaborative Process is more equipped to handle complex economic issues, child-centered conflicts, difficult personalities.
Collaborative vs. Attorney Negotiated Settlement : An attorney-negotiated settlement is like an old-fashioned game of “telephone.” You give your attorney a message regarding your settlement ideas, the attorney then communicates the terms to the attorney representing your spouse, and what your spouse hears may be different from the message you wanted to convey. The negotiations between attorneys can be quite slow while waiting for the messages to be conveyed amongst clients and their attorneys. This increases the cost of communication. The Collaborative Approach allows direct, real-time communication with your spouse which prevents misunderstandings, allows the process to move forward more efficiently, and is less costly.
Collaborative vs. Court Litigation : Most lawyers and judges agree that the Court system is the worst way to resolve family disputes. The resolution of a divorce case in litigation can take up to two years, including protracted investigation and information exchange (called discovery). When you finally obtain a Judgment of Divorce, it lacks the details necessary to comprehensively address current and future issues, and may not resolve issues that are important to you. The Court process is adversarial, dehumanizing, cumbersome, and expensive. Essentially, you are allowing a judge who does not know you to make decisions regarding your family. The vast majority of cases in litigation eventually settle after clients have spent significant attorneys’ fees in preparing for litigation, and cases often return to court throughout the years for modification or enforcement. The Collaborative Process avoids all these pitfalls of litigation and provides a durable, detailed, and enforceable resolution of the topics that are most important to your family. The Collaborative Process also keeps you out of Court while providing a cost effective method for current and future dispute resolution.