Two people, a man and a woman, came to me separately in the past week to explore the possibility of doing collaborative law. Both were people in short term marriages with no kids. The real estate wasn’t really the issue. And so it seemed that their situations were relatively simple, and that the collaborative process would be relatively simple. But scratching the surface made me see nuances that would not make the case appropriate.
The man asked me for my legal opinion of doing something that appeared to be somewhat morally questionable. Assuming that it was legal, it was not, as I told him, collaborative, and would not be a good way to start off the collaborative process.
The woman told me that both her husband had recently taken money from their joint bank account, which she assumed he had invested in his own name in a foreign stock market. Again, not illegal, but it wasn’t clear that he would be transparent, either.
While couples obviously do not need to agree, I do believe that there is a certain level of trust that each must have for the other, perhaps not when it comes to emotional issues, but certainly when it comes to the financial.
The collaborative process is, unfortunately, not for everyone. Sometimes the best thing you can do is do an honest assessment of you and your spouse, and find a lawyer who is a good negotiator, and work to get as fair a result all around as possible. There is no reason why the tenets of collaborative process – a commitment to fairness, to self-determination, to resolving conflict with dignity – cannot be applied to negotiation.
You can’t change your circumstances. All you can do is work toward the best possible result.