Client Stories -- In Their Own Words
KATHY F., ARTIST, MARRIED 37 YEARS, 2 GROWN CHILDREN
Divorce is a very emotional time. I was angry, frightened about my future, and miserable with life in general. I was worried about finding a “tough” lawyer who would fight for me. I was afraid that my spouse would somehow beat me out of my share of our many years together. A friend suggested using the collaborative divorce team as an alternative to the usual attorney/court appearance method of divorce. She had found the collaborative process to be fair and less controversial.
My first meeting allayed any skepticism I might have had about the collaborative divorce process. My attorney was compassionate with my individual situation. She thoroughly explained the process and cost of a collaborative divorce. Throughout the entire process I felt my attorney was caring yet professional with me and all the ups and downs I was experiencing. I always felt comforted and more positive, and that my best interests were her primary concern.
I appreciated that both parties agreed to be civil and open in the face to face meetings. I felt prepared and able to express my thoughts on various aspect of our divorce. There were none of the stereotypical emotional blowups or feelings of “I’m going to make you pay!” It was very clear that the concerns of both sides would be considered and that a mutual solution would be found.
I particularly appreciated the financial coordinator involved with our divorce. He was very thorough and professional in collecting all the financial information, from taxes to retirement accounts. He was present at most of the face to face meetings. He asked probing questions and understood the fears and concerns both sides felt. He was able to come up with several “scenarios” that fairly divided our assets and willing to discuss the pros and cons of each.
I can’t say enough positive things about the collaborative divorce process. It was such a fair, non-adversarial approach to our emotional, financial roller coaster. I feel thoroughly satisfied with the outcome and have no qualms about recommending a collaborative divorce – in fact, I already have.
DAN G., SOFTWARE COMPANY DIRECTOR, MARRIED 23 YEARS, 3 CHILDREN
Collaborative divorce was empowering in that it allowed me and my ex-spouse to come together with professionals who had the same goals we did: Reducing conflict in the divorce process, helping us understand division of assets, spousal and child support, setting a clear path for co-parenting during and after the divorce process, and realizing a stable and suitable financial resolution that helped us with both short- and long-term goals. Most notable in the process is that we began by listing our needs and goals for ourselves and our children through the process, identified mutual and overlapping needs, and worked with the professionals involved with those goals in mind throughout, as guiding principles toward a fair, stable, and lasting settlement and parenting plan.
Going into the process I feared what many may fear --- a process where conflict abounded and where mistrust or fear ruled communication, meetings, and decision-making. Collaborative divorce helped overcome those fears, as we established trust with the professionals we were working with – legal, financial, and parenting professionals – and understood that they would help us reach a fair settlement that we both agreed to. We’d chosen collaborative divorce instead of litigated for this exact reason – we didn’t want to burn bridges in the process, and we wanted a stable environment for ourselves, each other, and our children both during and after the divorce.
A few of surprises about the process have stayed with me:
Working through our goals to start the process was the best thing we did. Those goals have stayed with me and are still the guiding principal that I look to for both financial and parenting responsibilities and plans now.
The financial process very much set the stage for long-term success. From monthly budgeting (which is still a large factor in how I spend today) to setting long-term financial goals, it was an invaluable foundation.
And the parent coaching was priceless. Setting up a healthy co-parenting relationship, with clear lines of communications, expectations, schedules, boundaries, and flexibility, has been the life-blood of parenting post-divorce.
Throughout the process, my attorney was exceptional representing me in my roles as a client and father, and advocated strongly for me while also coaching and guiding toward collaborative resolution of any disputes. I can’t imagine going through a divorce process without this kind of foundational trust and guidance.
ELIZABETH D., LAWYER, MARRIED 26 YEARS, 1 SON IN COLLEGE
I considered collaborative divorce at the suggestion of a respected friend who is an attorney. I eventually chose the collaborative divorce process because I believed it would lead to a faster divorce and prevent the deep hurt I felt becoming vengeful actions that would emotionally harm my son.
I did in fact acquire a divorce decree in less time than if I had litigated and it did cost me less than a litigated divorce (by an estimated $10k-15k). However, things got a lot worse with my former husband before they got better, and I credit the professionals who assisted me in the collaborative process with helping me stay centered and focused on the process, which in turn helped me support my son.
I was about four months into the collaborative process when I began to doubt the wisdom of my belief that my former husband was actually committed to a collaborative divorce, but I am glad I persevered. The team approach resulted in a fair and equitable settlement. The collaborative process has built in procedures that foster respect as well as safeguards that foster emotional sanctuary, and together they provided the support I needed going forward into the unknown world of single life after 27 years of marriage. In retrospect, they also provided the foundation for a cooperative relationship with my former husband that enabled respectful parenting and the shared management of a real estate asset for four years after the divorce was final.
ANDY L., HOTEL OWNER, MARRIED 30 YEARS, 2 GROWN CHILDREN
After 30 years of marriage and raising two children we decided to get divorced. We had witnessed a number of friends and acquaintances go through the conventional process and in most cases the participants treated each other poorly, involved friends and family often putting their children in a position of choosing sides. Six months of counseling had failed to resolve our issues but we both felt we had been good parents who raised our children well and we recalled all the positive things we had done together. We separated for a six month cooling off period and then agreed to seek a "friendly divorce" to avoid dishonoring the family we had created. Also, we both accepted our share of responsibility for the marriage failure and agreed up front to work toward a fifty/fifty split of our accumulated assets. It took us six months to finalize the divorce.
Like any divorce, going through the process was very painful, however I am glad we chose "Collaborative Divorce" for the following reasons:
It probably is significantly less expensive than conventional divorce and I know from speaking to others, our expenses were much lower making the savings available to us post divorce.
Signing the Collaborative Divorce Agreement gave us a powerful incentive to work together rather than fight. The agreement is a legal document that binds the divorcing couple and their lawyers to work together. The covenants agreed to in the document have to be strictly adhered to and failure to do so terminates the process. After investing time in the process I would not have wanted to find a new lawyer and start over again. This would be time consuming, expensive and extend the time needed to complete the divorce. I think that document gave me a powerful incentive to stay the course.
The format gives the divorcing couple a means for venting their frustrations. During the process, I often became frustrated with things that were being said and I dealt with this by calling my lawyer privately. Often the issue was taken care of by our next meeting. I assume my lawyer had shared our conversation with the other lawyer who then discussed it with my spouse. I am sure that this helped us avoid needless conflicts that might have derailed the process or extended the time frame.
Having a financial advisor organize our community assets on a spreadsheet and explain the values assigned to my half was helpful in making me feel that my contribution to the marriage was respected. I feel post divorce that I was awarded my fair share of the community property and have no lingering thoughts that my spouse took advantage of me. Because of this I trust my former spouse and we are able to work together post divorce dealing with our children and resolving any post divorce financial issues that arise.
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A clip from The Today Show that reviews the Collaborative Law process from both the clients' point of view as well as the attorneys'.
A 20-minute video that explains the Collaborative Process to the public through portrayals of various stages of the process along with commentary from Stu Webb, the founder of Collaborative Law, and Ron Ousky.