Introduction to Collaborative Practice
Anne Towey's absolute commitment to collaborative practice
Collaborative and the Mainstream Media
What is collaborative practice really about?
Questions to consider before deciding how you will obtain your divorce
Regaining control in the midst of divorce
Collaborative practice groups; local, national and international


What is collaborative practice really about?

Divorce does not have to result in extreme and unmanageable stress on the parties and the children. Divorce can address the most significant needs of each member of your family in a way that the courts do not.  

All too often the litigation system pits spouses and parents against one another in a manner wholly inconsistent with their intentions. Predictably, the result is not a resolution of the real problems facing the parties, but an Order of a court obtained through an expensive series of hearings and litigation tactics that make co-parenting of children in the future exceedingly difficult.

This is not to say that the judges are doing anything wrong. Most judges are wonderful people who take their work very seriously. Nevertheless, many judges experienced in family law matters will admit that loving your children is not in their job description. Even if they wanted to get to know your children, they could not. With half of all marriages ending in divorce most family law judges have busy calendars that simply do not allow them to delve deep enough into the issues that are so important to so many families.

Moreover, when going through the traditional litigated divorce process, the attorneys have to position the parties against each other because those are the only tools the traditional litigation divorce model has. In the litigation model, there appears to be a set of resources that each party wants. These resources are defined in part by the law as property, money and access to the children. It becomes a question of who gets the most slices of the pie – which is done at the cost of the other. Many of the issues that are most important to the couple are not addressed in this process because the litigation process itself does not leave room for such issues. The statutes don’t address them and or require the parties to take positions that makes obtaining them during litigation unlikely.

Why settle for what the law provides when you can obtain so much more?

A collaborative professional can help you understand all of the issues that are addressed as a rule in the collaborative process.

The collaborative process is tailored to your specific needs, not those of someone else who is supposed to represent all families. ‘One size fits all’ works great for things like gloves and mittens. It gets a little more challenging with more sophisticated articles of clothing such as suits and gowns. It is simply common sense that the fit is more challenging as you move up the scale in levels of importance. When it comes to families, one size usually fits no one. Why settle for that when you can have your divorce be tailored to your specific family, addressing each members’ legitimate needs?  

The court is not supposed to be the first step in a divorce process. It should be the last resort. It is where you go when all other methods have failed or when one of the parties is simply unable or unwilling to consider anything beyond the past, at the cost of the important things in the future. Unfortunately, because the courts can typically offer only a default way to resolve divorce issues, parties who divorce through the litigation process often return with regularity to attempt to remedy some of the problems that the Order left unaddressed or exacerbated. There is a better way.

Explore how and why Collaborative Practice divorce differs from litigation and other traditional alternative dispute resolution practices (ADR), such as mediation, arbitration and their hybrids.

Each alternative dispute resolution process is designed in large part to address some of the negative aspects of using traditional litigation. Indeed, one of the reasons I have elected to abandon my successful litigation practice was that I was well trained in the arts of various methods of alternative dispute resolution. I found that my preference for addressing the issue at stake, along with forward thinking issues and the other needs of the parties were too often considered “outside of the box.”  In recognizing they are not equipped to deal effectively with emotions and other issues that cannot be quantified in numbers and data, some lawyers make the mistake of ignoring the very existence of such issues. Others may not ignore it, but may not see the value in recognizing it because of the absence of a way to quantify it in resolution.

There are many excellent attorneys who have realized that to practice law effectively, they needed to develop the skills of alternative dispute resolution processes. Many of these alternative dispute resolution processes work extremely well in contract disputes, medical malpractice, some divorces and other types of civil litigation. But they are not necessarily well suited for all divorces. Lawyers that have undertaken the basic and intermediate levels of collaborative practice training are well suited to assist you in exploring the differences in the various ways to obtain a final divorce.  

I highly recommend that you look at all of your options before making important decisions that will dictate how your divorce process is handled. The International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP) is an incredible group of collaborative professionals from around the world. The group provides an invaluable resource in its web site which I encourage you to visit.

For example, the IACP web site provides answers to the most basic questions such as:

The IACP’s website also offers links to various videos regarding the Collaborative Law Process including a link the NBC’s Today Show Interview

Finally, the site offers biographies of members of the IACP to facilitate in selecting Collaborative attorneys, Collaborative financial professionals and Collaborative mental health professionals.

Membership in the IACP is not required to be a collaborative professional. Rather, it can be viewed as a group of collaborative professionals around the world who are committed to the Collaborative Practice movement and see merit and value in devoting their own time and resources in helping educate and protect the public. Its mission, vision and values are significant:

In the fall of 2005 I attended an event hosted by the IACP including training and networking in Atlanta Georgia along with 12 other Collaborative Professionals from Minnesota . We enjoyed learning about what was working and not working in other states and countries from over 500 attendees. I was perhaps overly-proud I had chosen to make the trip to Atlanta until having dinner with two gentlemen who had flown in from Ireland for the event! It was such an incredible event that our local Collaborative Practice group, The Collaborative Law Institute of Minnesota, decided to purchase tapes of the sessions so that attendees who had to select which break out sessions to attend could learn from the sessions they had missed, and that all members of the Collaborative Law Institute of Minnesota could benefit from the event even if they were unable to travel to Atlanta. 

I wrote an article about the event to encourage the members of the Collaborative Law Institute of Minnesota to take advantage of the tapes as they become available. Excerpts of that article:

Justice Robert Benham, the first African American to serve on Georgia ’s Supreme Court, welcomed us with open arms and an inspirational reminder. He told us the original three professions were healing professions. Doctors heal the body. Clergy heal the soul. The third profession was the lawyers. He noted that we are once again becoming the healers of the community.

I discovered Collaborative Law only a few months ago, while trying to find other ways to use my skills to help children and their families. I enjoyed hearing from child specialists during one of the break out sessions. During the last session I attended, an attorney interviewed 3 couples she had worked with through their collaborative divorces, along with a gentleman that used Collaborative Processes to peacefully amend visitation provisions ten years after his divorce. I heard several of the couples indicate that while they really appreciated the lawyers, it was the child specialist that provided the most important services in their situations. I also heard one couple comment that the meals provided by the attorneys were very helpful. They were under the impression that the attorneys were actually in competition to be the best cook. I am eager to use these and other comments in my practice as a Collaborative Professional.

Note: the above reference relates to the fact that Collaborative Professionals include attorneys, licensed mental health professionals and licensed financial professionals. Because the goal of Collaborative Practice is to help the clients address their true needs, no one profession is considered more or less important by the Collaborative Professionals. For example, as an attorney I strongly recommend that my clients consider using a “divorce coach” to help them acknowledge yet deal with effectively, the emotional issues that attorneys are not really intended to deal with. The financial professionals often help parties realize that there is a way to meet all of their legitimate needs with a bit of creativity that attorneys are not really trained to come up with. Although using various professionals might sound expensive at first blush, it is really no different than the choices you make day to day. When was the last time you hired your dentist, and paid the dentist rate, to detail your automobile? We all instinctively understand that it is most efficient to use the professionals that were trained for specific tasks. Let a Collaborative Professional help you understand how the use of various professionals to resolve the issues in your divorce will help you.

Again, Collaborative Professionals can be located through the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals site, which includes various collaborative professionals in Minnesota . In addition, a more expansive group can be located on the web site of our local practice group, The Collaborative Law Institute of Minnesota, which includes people who are not members of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals.

While I strongly suggest contacting a Collaborative Professional from either of these lists, I am most familiar with the more active members of the organizations. Whether you use a highly experienced and highly trained Collaborative Professional or someone who is a less active member of an organization, please be advised that if you do not sign a Participation Agreement, you are not getting collaborative practice and you are not getting all of the benefits of Collaborative Practice.

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