People in crisis, especially when facing divorce or other family conflicts, look to lawyers to help them through the experience. What should you think about when hiring a lawyer to help you As a Collaborative Divorce attorney, I know the value of a team approach to resolution. The collaborative team is crucial to a positive divorce since the team, which includes you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse, meets regularly to empower you to resolve the divorce issues.
You should talk with the collaborative attorney about the collaborative team he thinks you need to resolve your case. You or your spouse may be struggling emotionally with the divorce and need a neutral divorce coach who can work with you both through the process. You may require a financial neutral who can help appropriately and equitably divide the property and identify any potential future consequences associated with your possible division. Or you may need a Collaborative Mediator who can help facilitate the discussion between the team members.
Your collaborative attorney should have a list of providers who might be helpful to you and your family. And your collaborative attorney should refer you to possible teammates who also appear to reflect your values.
through your divorce or family conflict? Since I am committed to out-of-court, peaceful resolutions, I reframe the question of what I should look for in a Collaborative Divorce lawyer. The Collaborative lawyer is part of the collaborative team who helps you and your partner through the divorce peacefully and respectfully. The Collaborative lawyer should help reduce animosity and hostility resulting from litigation. Here are my three suggestions.
I. Find a lawyer who hears, understands, and honors your goals and values.
One of the first things a lawyer should do is find out about you. Who you are and your goals and values and be open to ways to help you achieve your goals by honoring your values. The lawyer should not jump to ways to help you “win” without knowing what you want. Be sure the attorney repeats back what you want, but also finds the underlying reason for that goal. For example, if you tell your attorney that you want to keep your house after the divorce, the attorney could simply say, “I hear you want to keep the house.” But it is critical for the attorney to explore why you want to keep the house because this may explain your values. The house may represent emotional security. Or it may mean emotional stability to your children. Or, you may have an emotional connection to the things in the house. Or the house may simply be seen as a place to live. By uncovering the reason for your goal – to keep the house – the lawyer is helping you explore your underlying values. Your values may be honoring the past or emotionally healthy children, or you simply want to ensure a comfortable roof over your head. Unfortunately, you may not be able to keep the house due to the factors at issue in your divorce, but the attorney who can hear and honor your values during the divorce will help you have peace in the ultimate resolution. That may mean so much more to you than the house.
You will also want a lawyer who understands your approach to the divorce as part of your value system and shares how they will honor those values as the divorce proceeds. If your goal is to have an amicable relationship with your ex-spouse after the divorce, you will want your attorney to approach the process from that perspective. But, if you’re going to burn your relationship with your ex-spouse, you will want an attorney who will counsel you about ways to aggressively file motion after motion on your behalf. You should ask your attorney about their approach to resolution and ensure that it meets the goals that you set for yourself.
II. Find an attorney who will establish a team that works with you.
III. You should ask the attorney about their commitment to learning new ways to support you during the collaborative process.
Ironically, the law is the thing that changes the least during a divorce. A divorce involves an ever-changing cavalcade of emotions and goals. You may be feeling depressed one day and euphoric the next. Your collaborative attorney needs to know that these changes will be ongoing and may often repeat during the process. This is why the collaborative attorney needs to continually explore ways to help clients through the process. At the very least, you will want a collaborative attorney who is collaboratively trained. You will also want a collaborative attorney who regularly attends meetings with local and state-wide practice groups. In Oregon, these groups include the Oregon Association of Collaborative Professionals, Clackamas Collaborative Divorce, Bridges Divorce, and Portland Collaborative Divorce. You may also look for an attorney who is a member of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals and committed to ongoing training with these organizations. How the collaborative team can benefit clients is not static. It requires an active participant in discussions with other professionals who share a commitment to life-long learning about ways to help clients achieve a positive and peaceful resolution.