One of the most frequently asked questions by clients considering using the Collaborative process for their divorce is this: What if we get stuck? What if there are issues that simply cannot be resolved during the Collaborative process? Does court then become our only option?
I recently concluded a case in which every issue was complicated. It was a high income, high asset case. We were able to successfully resolve all of the issues with the exception of the amount and duration of spousal support. Each party was set in his or her own opinion, and we were unable to reach an accord.
Our solution was to sign a separate mediation collaborative agreement. The agreement allowed the couple and the Collaborative team to bring in a neutral mediator to work with us. Both attorneys representing each spouse prepared briefs setting forth the position of their client. The full team participated in the mediation process. The financial expert was able to provide answers regarding the complicated financial situation surrounding the income and needs of the spouses. The coach was available to keep the mediation calm and focused on the issue before the mediator. This method of resolution enabled the parties to retain their team and all of the work generated by that team.
This hybrid method of resolution is an alternative to abandoning the Collaborative process. It builds upon the work process up to this point, and moves forward in a positive manner. As long as both spouses are willing to continue working on their issues, it is far preferable to take whatever time necessary and bring in people who can offer help and support, rather than giving up and taking a risk by letting a third party determine your future for you. Frequently the result is that no one ends up happy. They can even feel damaged in the process.
The mediation itself was conducted by the Honorable Thomas Murphy, a retired judge working with JAMS (formerly Judicial Arbitration and Mediation Services).