We came across an interesting article in the New York Times which ran this past Wednesday – offering suggestions from lawyers on how to keep costs down during a divorce. We agree wholeheartedly with much of the advice offered in the article, as they do protect you from costly decisions, and also make for better divorces.
They first talk about choosing the right path, be it litigation, mediation, or collaborative law. We are trained in mediation and collaborative law – the two main kinds of alternative dispute resolution – and are big believers in those options. Through mediation and collaborative law, couples can not only settle their divorces, but can do so with mutually agreed upon divorce decrees.
The lawyers in the article do caution divorcing couples to make sure they can work together – it can result in additional time and money to go down an alternative dispute resolution path and then have to resort to litigation. One of the most important decisions we help clients make in divorces is which route to take. We have lawyers experienced in each of the three options, who know how to help couples through each process even when they bog down.
We found one recommendation especially interesting: If you haven’t chosen a lawyer and your spouse has, get a recommendation from that spouse’s lawyer on who to hire. This is especially good advice if you’re using collaborative law, where the lawyers pledge to work together toward helping their clients come to a settlement. But if lawyers can work well together, they may be able to find ways to come together on a negotiated solution even if they’ve been hired to litigate.
As the lawyer who made this suggestion noted, “We are committed to the best deal for our clients but a good working relationship with the other counsel saves everyone time and money.” It’s possible to advocate for a client and not fight in court – especially if you can get what your client wants out of a settlement without the time and expense that a courtroom battle involves.
They also offer the advice we give to clients in keeping costs down: “Your lawyer is not your therapist.” It’s tempting to talk to your lawyer – who knows your situation – about the powerful emotions you’re feeling, but a therapist is much better equipped to help you through those situations. They go to school specifically for that, whereas lawyers train in the law and in reconciling legal matters.
One quote in particular caught our eye on this topic. Gabrielle Hartley, a lawyer, divorce coach, and the author of Better Apart: The Radically Positive Way to Separate, spoke to a healthier way that couples could process divorce than blaming each other. “Find a way to retell your life story that recognizes that there are many perspectives about the end of your marriage,” she advises. “Stop being a victim. You are right and so are they and the law will typically divide assets and child custody without judgment as to who behaved the worst.”
To do that, though, it might take some time with a therapist to work through the fear and anger that often accompanies divorce. As much as we’d like to be able to do that for our clients, with the wave of a magic wand, we can’t do that. What we can do, however, is pledge to help our clients settle their divorces in the methods and time frames that best suit their situations.
If you’re wondering about divorce, and this is giving you food for thought, we’re here to talk to you about your situation and what routes to divorce will work best for you. The initial consultation we offer can be the first step in getting you to the rest of your life.