At Fahnert LLC we are trained in collaborative divorce and are willing to represent you if you and your spouse agree to a collaborative divorce. The key element of a collaborative divorce is that all professionals (lawyers and experts) involved in the case agree to only represent you only outside of the legal system. Basically, they may represent you as long as you don’t fight it out in court. No experts involved (such as a financial planner or child-custody expert) may testify as witnesses in a trial. Similarly, if your case is fought out in court, the attorneys representing you in the collaborative divorce must withdraw. You and your spouse must hire new lawyers to represent you. The benefit of this is that you and your spouse know that no professional involved in this case will financially benefit if your case gets fought out in court and, thus, nobody will be interested in making things more acrimonious.
Theoretically, a collaborative divorce should at least some of the time to lead to a more affordable and more flexible divorce experience. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Nearly every time I’ve tried to work on a collaborative divorce, the attorney on the other side will insist on the hiring of experts (both financial planners and child-custody experts), even when this is not necessary. Also, they will insist on having formal 4-way meetings with the parties and their attorney every time there is an issue (even in circumstances where a simple email between the attorneys would suffice). This formality often undercuts the flexibility and affordability that I believe a collaborative divorce should provide to the divorcing parties.
For example, let’s say that you and your spouse are having a dispute because one of you does not have the child ready on time for the other parent’s parenting time. Then you call the child expert in the case, the expert sends letters on the matter to the attorney, the attorneys respond to this email and discuss with you, then the expert discusses the matter with your spouse and sends a report to all the attorney, the attorney discusses with you…etc. Instead of all this work, a simple email between attorneys saying, “Please have your client have the child ready when my client comes to pick up the child” might suffice. Similarly, if you have simple finances, you might not need to hire a financial planner, however often collaborative divorce attorneys will insist on one.
Thus, while I’m in favor of the theory behind collaborative divorce, I’m often not satisfied with the rigid nature with which it is practiced. If you are considering a collaborative divorce I will often recommend to you that we have a short discussion with your spouse and their attorney to make sure that we are all on the same page as to how we will approach the collaborative divorce and that it is in line with your wishes for flexibility and affordability.