Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Collaborative Divorce: A New Article

The Associated Press picks up on the collaborative divorce trend with the article Keen Interest In Gentler Ways To Divorce.

Yet many couples are embracing the approach, recently endorsed by the American Bar Association, as part of a broader quest to find more civilized, efficient ways to end a marriage. Do-it-yourself divorces and mediation also are popular options.

Lawyers by the thousands want to be part of the trend.

"Most of us had that moment where we realize the adversarial process is so damaging for our clients and there's a recognition that we can do better," said Talia Katz, a former divorce lawyer who is executive director of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals.

You can find more information on collaborative divorce here, here, here, here, here, and here. You will find an article about mediation and collaborative divorce law here.

While the dollar amounts mentioned below are at Massachusetts rates, I say pay attention to the relative numbers. I do not recall seeing anything comparing the different methods of divorce by dollar amounts (but it is very early in morning when I write this):

Hoffman works at the Boston Law Collaborative, where the staff includes a psychologist and a financial planner. It offers divorcing couples a range of options, including mediation and collaborative divorce as well as conventional litigation.

The firm analyzed 199 of its recent divorce cases, and found that mediation, collaborative divorce and litigation all produced high rates of successful settlement. Mediation was by far the least expensive option, with a median cost of $6,600, compared to $19,723 for a collaborative divorce, $26,830 for settlements negotiated by rival lawyers, and $77,746 for full-scale litigation.

For Hoosiers, I want to throw a bit of caution at the mediation cost. Would anyone not represented by a lawyer take a case into mediation? Would the non-lawyer know how to start the mediation process? It may be that Massachusetts has a different process for its divorces that makes mediation a more available remedy. The article does point out some problems with mediation:

Rita Pollak, the Boston lawyer who represented David Boyle in his divorce, said mediation might be a good option for some couples, but there are reasons to try the collaborative approach.

"At mediation, each partner has to come to the table and speak for himself or herself at a really emotional time, and sometimes there's an imbalance in knowledge or power," she said. "If you don't have your attorney at the table to protect you, the mediation can be pretty tricky."

With that caveat, I think someone with more resources (hello, Indiana University or Purdue or Ball State or Indiana State University or the Indiana Bar Association or the Indiana Supreme Court) make the same sort of survey for Indiana.

The article briefly touches on unbundling, which may not be available in Indiana due to our ethical rules.

In another trend called unbundling, several states now allow attorneys to offer limited help to people who can't afford a full-service divorce. This coaching for example outlining options and helping draft a final agreement might cost $1,000 or so, many times less than the fee for full legal service.

1 comment:

jane_horton said...

more good info on collaborative divorce here: