When Considering Collaborative Divorce, Beware of the Litigious Lawyer Disguised as “Collaborative”

This is the time of year for dressing up and wearing disguises for Halloween.  One unwelcome “disguise,” however, is that of the collaborative divorce lawyer who is not.  This is not an easy disguise to uncover for the spouse considering collaborative divorce.

In New Jersey, collaborative divorce lawyers are to be formally trained in both collaborative divorce and mediation.  They are also members of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, as well as certain professional collaborative “practice groups” around the state.

Since the recent enactment in New Jersey of the Family Collaborative Law Act, however, there’s been a noticeable increase in the number of lawyers promoting their ability to “assist” with your collaborative divorce.  Beware, however, that such lawyers may not have undergone the necessary training and education, and do not have prior experience in collaborative divorce.

Collaborative Divorce is similar to mediation although there is a value added collaborative “team” that works together to identify the needs, goals, and interests of each spouse, resolve obstacles and generate solutions.  The team is comprised of you and your spouse, both lawyers, and as necessary, divorce coach, neutral financial professional and child specialist.  Legal fees are generally lower in collaborative divorce than in divorce litigation.

The success of the collaborative divorce process depends primarily on the competence of your professional team members and how well they work together to achieve your goals.  This means that if you are considering collaborative divorce, the first thing you should do is meet with a collaborative divorce lawyer and ask pointed questions such as:

  • Do you practice exclusively in divorce and family matters?
  • Are you trained in mediation as well as collaborative divorce?
  • Which local practice groups do you belong to?  How often does the practice group meet?
  • Listen to the language that the lawyer uses.  Is it “collaborative-friendly?”

While it might make you feel emotionally supported if a prospective lawyer validates your anger towards your spouse and encourages you to aggressively “fight” for what you “deserve,” this is a red flag indicating that he or she has a “litigation” rather than a “collaborative” mindset.

Also notice whether the prospective lawyer uses appropriate terms when discussing the collaborative divorce process.  Terms like “group meeting,” “action items,” “financial neutral,” or “needs, goals, and interests”, are typical language of the collaborative divorce process.  The lawyer should also emphasize the value of the divorce coach in assisting with any obstacles that might stand in the way of a settlement.

You will now be armed with the tools you need to uncover those clever “disguises” and find the collaborative divorce lawyer who is right for you!

If you would like more information about collaborative divorce, please call me at (973) 292-9090.

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