Divorce Without Disaster - Human Behavior Key to Collaborative Law

This is the seventh post of a serialization of Janet P. Brumley's book, Divorce Without Disaster. This post is Chapter 1, part 5 of the book.

The need for people to participate in major decision-making during a crucial period of life is at the root of this move to collaborative law. Just as medicine is evolving away from the physician giving the patient orders and toward more interaction between the doctor and the patient, participation is growing between the lawyer and the client. Today, patients want to know which medicines and procedures can help them recover and consider the pros and cons of each. People contemplating divorce want to know which legal processes best fit their situation, so they can, with an attorney's advice, choose for themselves.

For most people, the collaborative law process is an attractive one that can prove effective. We want to control our lives and decisions, as long as we feel safe doing so. Collaborative law allows us to create a safe environment and achieve good results. The attorneys act as a safety net for the parties. The parties each know that the attorneys will jump in if they are about to make an agreement that is unenforceable or unwise.

Attorneys untrained in collaborative law often claim that it can't work, that people are much too vindictive or stupid or mean to allow the process to work, especially in family law matters. This simply is incorrect.

"The divorce model of the past has involved, at times, intense litigation and conflict, which prevented families from moving forward with positive momentum," says Patrick A. Savage, a psychotherapist and mediator who was one of the first therapists in Dallas to work on collaborative law divorces. "I have trained with attorneys who are learn-ing to move from an adversarial approach to one of collaboration in order to perform the helpful services they can provide as 'counselors at law.' I have seen collaborative attorneys assist their clients in resolving conflicts to find closure by the end of the divorce."

"Using the collaborative process helps the couple understand their role in the divorce, better problem-solve, explore the best interests of the entire family, co-parent their children and move into new relationships without the continued baggage from the previous marriage," Savage adds.

Collaboration, he points out, is an extreme team effort that puts all the information on the table early, so the pieces are there to work with. "What's happening is, instead of the attorney saying, 'The other side wants this; don't give it to them,' the attorney asks, 'What is in the best interest of these clients and their children?'" We know it's much easier for people to do harm to others if they can do it from far away and are not engaged with that person. It's infinitely easier for pilots to bomb a village from several thousand feet in the air than it is for soldiers to attack when they see children playing in the streets. If you put people in a room across from each other, most will back off their desire to do harm and instead will do right.

Simple proximity can have this amazing effect. Coming face to face with the opposition, the vast majority of people will defuse whatever bombs they may be carrying, saving themselves as well as the enemy. The process of collaborative law is like that. It helps clients and attorneys evolve from their lower-functioning isolated selves into higher-functioning integrated people.

- Janet P. Brumley

Prior posts:

Divorce Without Disaster - Collaborative Law - About the Author
Divorce Without Disaster - Collaborative Law - Introduction
Divorce Without Disaster - What Is Collaborative Law and Why Use It?
Divorce Without Disaster - Choices of How to End the Marriage
Divorce Without Disaster - A Closer Look at Collaborative Law
Divorce Without Disaster - Collaborative Law Can Save Everything

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