How the case Started?
- At initial consultation, Mr. C. (the husband) wanted a Collaborative Divorce. Why?
- He liked the benefits:
- Economic divorce – save money on legal fees and preserve the marital estate
- Control – not to naively put your destiny in the hands of a Judge (a stranger).
- We both communicated with Mrs. C. (the Wife) regarding Collaborative Law and its benefits and gave her a brochure and website so she could find a good Collaborative attorney for herself.
- all to no avail
- she did nothing for 6 months
- so, Mr. C. hired me to start a divorce litigation
- Ability to have an economic divorce starts being eroded
- Retainers typically higher for a divorce litigation than a Collaborative Divorce.
- divorce litigation is much more time consuming.
- So, you pay substantially more up front for litigation that you do for Collaborative
Loss of Control over events in your life from the Outset
- Wife responded to the Summons and Complaint with a Pendente Lite Motion
- She immediately asked for a Judge to grant her temporary relief (Child Support and Maintenance and counsel fees while case is pending)
- Husband (Mr. C.) and his attorney (me) must respond to that on paper (reminds me of movie “Paper Chase” because the papers are important and must be done quickly)
- Time consuming, expensive. Usually takes at least 10 hours of an attorney’s time.
- Each party at the mercy of a Judge –
- Low and behold –the Judge made a mistake
- He granted Wife’s temporary maintenance and Child Support and we expected that, but he didn’t calculate Child Support under the Child Support Standards Act (CSSA) correctly. The Judge made it too high.
- He failed to deduct the temporary maintenance award from the husband’s income before applying the CSSA formula.
- shocking for a Judge to make this mistake
- This is comparable to a surgeon leaving his baloney sandwich in your body during surgery.
- However, to the Judge’s credit – he corrected his mistake when it was pointed out to him by letter (on notice to opposing counsel) and by doing so he saved the parties thousands of dollars by obviating the need for a motion to re-argue and/or an appeal.
- This initial mistake – if not corrected by the Judge – would have cost the husband $500.00 per month.
- This never would have happened in a Collaborative case done by competent collaborative lawyers.
- You get better service and retain much more control over your divorce when you do it collaboratively.
Discovery Process in a Litigation
- can be unduly time consuming and expensive
- client needs to be intelligent, well organized and cooperative – must listen to his lawyer-otherwise he/she can get screwed by the Court.
- Mr. C. was highly intelligent and very well organized and cooperative – so he did just fine through discovery – but his retainer was still exhausted by the time depositions were completed.
- Mr. C’s litigation costs were beginning to spiral out of control
Settlement Conference in Court
- Judge is giving this case short-shrift (Collaborative Attorneys pour their hearts and souls into making a good settlement)
- Collaborative lawyers have much smaller case loads compared to Judges– so you get much more attention from your collaborative attorneys than from your Judge.
- Mr. C. is realizing his worst fears
- Now Mrs. C’s attorney is demanding lifetime maintenance for his client
- Mr. C. and I are going along with the Judge’s recommendation for settlement (5 years maintenance)
- And Mr. C’s economic life is in serious jeopardy – if his wife wins and gets lifetime maintenance, it will cost him an extra $380,000.00
- Serious loss of control
- Judge wants trial completed in 1 day, but the lawyers are both well prepared and really need 2 days to complete it
- In my 30 years experience this Judge is being unprofessional about this – he wants the lawyers to give him a “quickie divorce”
We have a choice
- We can buck the system – and I was tempted to do this and make a record on appeal every time the Judge improperly interrupted me, tried to manipulate me and otherwise inappropriately asserted his authority over me to shorten the trial.
- But to buck the system- which is so exciting for a lawyer to do – would be very expensive for Mr. C. and he didn’t want that.
- So – we gave the Judge the quickie divorce he wanted, and the trial was completed in 1 day.
- Again, we got short shrift
- Instead of the Judge taking his time (maybe 1 or 2 weeks) and taking meticulous care in writing an accurate and well-reasoned decision, we got a quickie decision
- I’m beginning to see a pattern here, and am wondering how frustrated the Judge’s wife must be with her husband, who insists on quickies. LOL
- Seriously – the Judge recessed for 45 minutes and rendered his decision orally from the bench.
Good News for Mr. C. and Me
- We won – maintenance was limited to 5 years
- I feel euphoric, and my client expresses his gratitude to me.
- However, if both spouses and their lawyers collaborated instead of litigated, the lawyers could have saved the couple a lot of money and worry, so my victory at trial is bittersweet, especially for my client.
More stories like this need to be told, so our community and the general public know the importance of choosing Collaborative divorce over litigation in most divorce situations, and I am on a mission to do that.