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We blog about helping Long Island families to resolve conflicts in the most productive ways possible.

Nov 1, 2015BY: Neil Cahn
IN: Collaboration or Litigation or Mediation

Litigation v. Collaborative Divorce: The Timetable

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You don’t need your lawyer’s permission to ask your friends; you’re going to do it anyway. So ask.

Ask the ones who have gone through a litigated divorce how it feels to take time off work or from errands to go to court. They sat in their judge’s courtroom for a couple of hours, only for the lawyers to go “in the back” for a 10-minute conference with the judge, or more commonly, the judge’s Law Secretary. Your friends hated it; and they didn’t even see the judge, no less talk to him or her.

Even worse, ask how it felt to arrange schedules, only to find out the afternoon before a conference or trial date that your friend’s lawyer, your friend’s spouse’s lawyer, or the judge was “actually engaged” on another matter. The case was adjourned: for a month or two. Talk about frustration!

No process is perfect. But the timetable in a Collaborative Divorce is very different.

Our meetings are set according to “our” schedule (the parties’ and their team), not slotted into the crammed calendar of an overworked judge assigned hundreds of cases. The Collaborative meetings begin at a specified time; we don’t wait to be reached. Before each Collaborative meeting adjourns, the next two meetings are scheduled, and each party and team member is given his or her “homework” assignment. Progress, open issues, homework and future dates are all put into written minutes or progress notes that are distributed to the parties and team shortly after each meeting.

Odds are that even in litigation, your case is going to be settled, although you will often have to wait for the “eve of,” or even the middle of trial before a settlement is reached. That trial is almost always delayed by several adjournments.

In a Collaborative Divorce, we do not wait for the “other side,” who may be trying everything possible in the litigated scenario to delay the inevitable. With litigation, your case could be delayed for a “motion,” a request to the judge for an order on an interim matter. These motions are certainly sometimes very important; however, in other cases they may be trivial and strategic delays. Motion papers are often written in the most inflammatory tone, making settlement negotiations all the more difficult.

In contrast, with the Collaborative Divorce, we may be waiting for homework assignments to get done (budgets or valuations by the Neutral Financial Specialist; assessing the needs of the children, etc., by the Family Specialist or Child Advocate), but we are not waiting for a judge.

The Collaborative Process is like The Little Engine That Could, chugging along saying, “I know we’ll settle, I know we’ll settle.” We don’t stop. Each member of the team is committed to treating every other respectfully, moving the process along, watching out to eliminate unnecessary delays, reaching the goals of the parties, and achieving their Collaborative mission.

Just ask your friends.

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