Collaboration: What does it really mean?

what is collaboration

You have finally decided to move forward with divorce and to consult with an attorney.  However, you don’t know what to expect.  You have heard horror stories about what happens in Court, and you are concerned about the impact of divorce on you and your family, both emotionally and financially.  You really want to work things out by agreement with your spouse, but don’t know how best to do that.

You have heard about Collaborative Law and Mediation; or maybe you haven’t heard either of these processes, but the lawyer you consult tells you about them.  Or what if your spouse consults with a lawyer first, and tells you that they want to proceed with divorce using the Collaborative Law Process or Mediation?

What is Collaboration? Collaboration can have many meanings.  Traditionally, it was often associated with war – working with the enemy, being a “collaborator.”   Yet if you don’t want a war with your spouse, Collaboration takes on a totally different meaning.

Collaboration is a way to resolve conflict, to seek and find solutions that are good for both parties.  This involves working together even if you don’t agree on everything.  You may align on some things, but not others. Committing to collaborating with each other, your attorneys, and any other professionals involved, such as financial professionals, business valuators, real estate appraisers, or parenting plan professionals to find some common ground and compromise often leads to better and more lasting agreement.

Collaboration is not easy – it requires difficult conversations and can be painful. It can mean compromise and reaching the “good enough” but not perfect agreement.  However, life is not perfect.  Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston where she holds the Huffington Foundation-Brené Brown Endowed Chair at The Graduate College of Social Work, has said “Imperfections are not inadequacies; they are reminders that we’re all in this together.” In order to resolve conflict by agreement, we are all “collaborators,” working together toward a common goal even though we may have different interests and needs.

What tools and techniques are necessary for Collaboration? Having a law degree doesn’t mean an attorney suddenly sit down at a table and negotiate “collaboratively”.  Learning collaborative techniques and skills are an integral part of Collaborative Law and Mediation  training.

When you call a divorce lawyer to make an appointment, ask if the attorney has training in Collaborative Law and Mediation.  Make sure you get a good explanation of the different processes available to you, including litigation and how they compare –  have your spouse do the same.   No one ever said they enjoyed going to Court; yet sometimes litigation is the best option.  However, before going straight to Court, think about the alternatives.  Think about Collaborative Law or Mediation as a way to work together to achieve a settlement that you contribute to, participate in, can be creative about, and where you can truly be “collaborators” In reaching a resolution that is truly best for you and your family.