Stu Webb, the attorney who invented Collaborative Divorce in 1990, made a critical point in an interview* he gave a few years ago: When the other side in a divorce litigation pulled “a dirty trick,” he often wondered whether the dirty trick came from the other lawyer or the other lawyer’s client.
A divorce case can turn on a dirty trick. Unfortunately, issues as serious as long-term financial plans or even the custody of children can be determined by a dirty trick.
The most malevolent dirty trick I ever experienced was in a child custody case many years ago. The case was going very well until the other spouse switched attorneys and hired a very high-priced divorce litigator. Shortly after the new attorney got involved, an accusation was made that the wife’s boyfriend sexually abused the parties’ 7-year old daughter. The husband ended up winning custody of the child. The wife later learned from her daughter that Daddy promised to buy her a pet dog if she said that Mommy’s boyfriend touched her private parts. Assuming this pernicious bribe happened, was it the father’s idea or his lawyer’s idea?
Dirty tricks in a litigated divorce can take the form of hiding financial assets, or of the higher earning spouse suddenly and mysteriously losing their job for no apparent reason. If you are considering a divorce, do you want your financial future or the custody of your children to be decided by someone’s dirty trick?
Dirty tricks in your divorce case are much less likely to happen if you choose the collaborative process for the following reasons:
1. The collaborative process attracts highly ethical attorneys, who encourage their clients to take the morally high ground and conduct themselves respectfully and honestly.
2. Collaborative lawyers belong to a collaborative practice group. Through their mutual commitment to this new way of settling cases, they have built relationships with one another. They have learned to trust each other and they genuinely like each other. They are much less likely to stab each other in the back as often happens in divorce litigation. Trust helps gets cases settled.
3. For attorneys committed to settling a case with minimal financial and emotional damage to the parties, maintaining trust with their colleagues is more important to them than gaining an advantage as a result of a dirty trick in any one case.
4. Collaborative cases involve divorce coaches (mental health professionals) who can help the divorcing spouses and their attorneys keep the big picture in mind, working towards a long lasting divorce settlement.
5. The trust between collaborative professionals fosters creativity, helping them come up with win/win solutions.
*Here’s the link to see the full interview with Stu Webb on You Tube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AAO_JG0xmNw
© Arnold D. Cribari 2015