At least several times a year, I receive a telephone call from a person who is dissatisfied with the divorce settlement reached by using a collaborative lawyer in Maryland. A collaborative lawyer is retained for the sole purpose of negotiating a divorce settlement. The collaborative divorce lawyer will not represent you in divorce litigation in the event that a settlement is not reached with your spouse. And therein lies the problem.
The collaborative process involves the spouses retaining separate collaborative lawyers for the exclusive purpose of negotiating a divorce settlement. The process frequently involves hiring one or more of the following advisors: a financial planner; a therapist for the children; a custody evaluator; a child visitation coordinator; psychotherapists for each spouse; appraisers for real and personal property; and even an animal behaviorist for the family pet. The result is that the divorcing couple spends a small fortune on professionals in attempting to reach a divorce settlement agreement.
The high upfront costs incurred by the spouses create a strong financial incentive for the divorcing couple to reach an agreement. At the same time, the collaborative lawyers are pushing the parties as hard as they can into settling their divorce case. Very few clients have the fortitude to resist the pressure exerted by a collaborative lawyer to enter into an unfair settlement, because the client has already invested an enormous amount of time, effort, and money into the collaborative divorce process.
Most non-collaborative lawyers believe that the parties can reach the same, if not a better, result by retaining a traditional divorce lawyer. The reason why is that almost all divorce cases are resolved without a trial for 3 reasons. First, it usually a foregone conclusion how the family court judge would rule in the event of a trial. Secondly, litigation is expensive and most parties cannot afford a trial. Thirdly and most importantly, the court system is designed to help the parties reach a settlement. If every child custody or divorce case went to trial, there would be a multi-year backlog on obtaining a trial date.
Practice pointer for clients: If your collaborative lawyer is recommending a settlement that you believe is unfair, unreasonable, or not equitable, you should immediately stop the collaborative law process and retain a competent family lawyer attorney to sue your spouse for divorce.