If you are considering divorce in North Carolina, there is something you should know. It’s a secret that some divorce lawyers might not want you to know. The secret is that only about 10% of divorce cases ever actually go to trial. The other 90% are settled. Unfortunately, these settlements often occur only after the parties have spent exorbitant amounts of money in attorney and expert witness fees on a lot of “legal activity.1 At this point, unnecessary emotional damage, that could have been avoided, has often already been done.
Unfortunately, the cold hard truth is that often much of that wallet-draining legal activity probably wasn’t necessary to arrive at the agreed upon resolution.
Imagine how much money, heartache, and time could be saved if only the parties entered the divorce process with that end in mind.
Imagine what could be accomplished if the parties acknowledged from the start that they both wanted the same things, believed it was possible, and had a road-map to get there. There been studies which support the idea that our expectations influence the outcome.2
In his book, The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey, writes,
The “end goal will define a vision for the future and allow you to prioritize how to get there. Don’t just work aimlessly at whatever tasks come to you. Write down a mission statement, goals, and values. Post them up. Check every day, whether you are working against them.”3
The problem with traditional divorce litigation is that it often involves a lot of legal activity at tasks which are either responsive in nature, taking a defensive posture, or aimed at discrediting the other party. Either way, the focus is not on the goal. Cultural perceptions about how divorce is “supposed to turn out” often lead to an expectation of contention by default.
Beginning with the end in mind or “setting an end goal that will define a vision for the future” is where collaborative divorce really shines. Stuart Webb, the founder of the Collaborative law movement, has compared the divorce process with planning a trip and plotting out your itinerary.4 You can’t know the best way to get somewhere if you don’t know where you’re going. What do you want your life to look like post-divorce? Where do you want to be? What do you want your children to remember about this transition in your family?
In a collaborative divorce, the parties commit to working toward a mutually agreed-upon resolution of all the issues in a way that is respectful and confidential, without the threat of litigation. This doesn’t mean the spouses already agree on everything. A common misconception is that collaborative divorce only works for spouses who agree on most issues. If the spouses already agreed on the issues there wouldn’t be a need for collaborative divorce. The only thing the parties need to agree on initially is that they want to reach an agreement on the issues in a way that meets everyone’s needs while maintaining their integrity during the process.
It isn’t even necessary that the parties know how to achieve their end goal. They will have the help of a team of collaborative professionals who are experts in crafting creative solutions which are congruent with the family’s vision for the future.
- Webb, S. G., & Ousky, R. (2007). The collaborative way to divorce: The revolutionary method that results in less stress, lower costs, and happier kids, without going to court. New York: Plume.