Collaborative Law is based on the principle that both parties agree not to go to court, but the outcome is still an official legal agreement that will be entered in court. This is why a lawyer is necessary to finalize the agreement, and also to advise on matters such as child custody, child support/maintenance (alimony) agreements, and financial settlements. Like all collaborative lawyers, Dr. Petrich is trained in both mediation and collaboration, and is specially trained for the unique practice of the Collaborative Law model.
Collaborative Practice varies from conventional divorce in that it is a solutions-based approach, keeping the long-term interests of the family in mind. Collaborative lawyers rely on help from the mental health professionals to work toward a consensus without going to court. The bottom line is that self-esteem and dignity are preserved, and the well-being of the family is protected. In the rare case where collaboration fails, the couple can use any agreements they have reached in the litigation process IF THEY WISH TO.
Many lawyers say they settle cases. How is collaboration different from settling a conventional divorce case? Many family law cases are settled “on the steps of the courthouse,” after much money has been spent and much damage has been done. Many settlements are shaped by what the lawyers see as “the biggest piece of the pie,” or what they believe the judge will decide, not what the client wishes. In collaboration, lawyers do not take advantage of mistakes of the other party, nor do they threaten or focus on the negative. Collaborative lawyers like Dr. Petrich demand integrity from themselves, the other lawyer in the process, and the clients. If a collaborative lawyer believes that the client is not disclosing information or being deceitful, the lawyer is required to resign from the process (of course without disclosing why). In collaboration, each party states that he or she has disclosed all relevant information, and if he or she fails to do so, the judgment could be re-opened or “overturned,” with significant cost to the parties.
Finally, collaboration can be quicker (often four to seven meetings), less costly, more creative, and more satisfying in its results. Though collaboration should not be seen as a means to reconciling the marriage, it certainly provides the most positive tool available to improve communication and co-parenting for the future.
What if one party chooses a lawyer who doesn’t know about collaboration? Many collaborative attorneys like Gail will work with other lawyers who are not trained collaboratively AS LONG AS THEY WILL SIGN THE COLLABORATIVE AGREEMENT AND WORK ACCORDING TO ITS PRINCIPLES.