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COOPERATIVE DIVORCE IS CHEAPER

In thirty three years of practice, I have personally heard many people talking about wanting to “take someone to the cleaners,” or “teach someone a lesson.” Others have attempted to hire me to “teach someone a lesson.” One client told me he had come to me because he heard I was a “S__ of a b____.”

There are certainly occasions when aggressive lawyering is required. One of those situations involves a batterer who needs to be put in his place and with whom you cannot negotiate. Another involves people who simply cannot put their wrath aside to resolve things–they leave you no choice. But all experienced trial lawyers–in every field of law–know that 99% of all cases are ultimately settled. Unfortunately, many lawyers allow their clients to go down a long, expensive, litigation path before they settle.

Alternatives exist to bring about just results while controlling expense in both dollars and stress. “Collaborative law” involves formal agreements between attorneys to settle the case and to cooperate. Both attorneys sign a covenant not to litigate. This new medium for settlement exists in a few jurisdictions, such as Minnesota, California, and Texas. In states where this has not caught on, lawyers can still engage in settling cases in a collaborative fashion. One great tool for this is mediation.

A Recent article by Carole L. Camp in The Michigan Divorce Report points out that Collaborative divorce and mediation cost much less than their alternatives. The cost of mediation or collaboration is one to two thirds the cost of a divorce negotiated by attorneys, and only 8% to 25% of the cost of “full scale litigation.” Of course, the cheapest form of divorce is where the parties work the case out themselves, but this is usually only possible where there are no assets and no children. (If there are assets or children, lawyers should be involved to prevent irreparable damage.)

The bottom line is that the extra expense of a mediator is worth it. And those who cannot let go of their desire to inflict pain or play gains, will ultimately spend a lot more and usually end up with no different a result.