Schneider educates students on benefits of collaborative divorces
From litigating divorces to fighting child custody battles, family law attorneys who handle dissolutions of marriage are arguably held in public opinion as some of the most adversarial and disfavored lawyers in the legal field. An alternative to traditional courtroom fights to the death, however, seeks to change that.
Pamela Schneider (JD 79), adjunct professor and longtime divorce attorney, visited the Levin College of Law on Nov. 14 to educate students on the benefits of collaborative divorces as opposed to the familiar adversarial system.
The goal, she says, is to facilitate a cooperative environment among the parties, two attorneys, one or two mental health professionals trained in divorce coaching, and a neutral financial advisor so that the parties’ dignity and composure are preserved so they may effectively co-parent after the divorce.
Schneider said that often, after a long, drawn out, no-holds-barred adversarial divorce, “these people can’t even look at each other, let alone co-parent the children.”
She emphasized the impact that divorces have on the children involved in a divorce – no matter if the children are infants or adults.
“The problem for children isn’t getting the divorce, but how the parents treat each other afterwards,” she explained.
If one or both parties are not willing to settle their case with a collaborative divorce, however, Schneider said that both attorneys must withdraw from representing their respective clients and the clients must begin the process anew, hiring new attorneys and preparing for a potentially lengthy and painful legal battle.
While many skeptics have expressed worries that the cost of a collaborative divorce may be too high as a result of clients paying two mental health professionals as well as a financial advisor, Schneider explained how a collaborative divorce is often less expensive, and the cost of starting a new case after refusing to proceed with a collaborative divorce is often a helpful motive in keeping both parties dedicated to the collaborative process.
Additionally, collaborative divorces require less paperwork and fewer filings, so the attorneys spend fewer hours working on each case, thereby saving their clients money.
The final result, Schneider said, is usually far better for all parties than in an adversarial divorce. Often, after a lengthy divorce and custody battle, proceedings are rushed in order to meet a deadline set by a judge and both parties in an adversarial divorce emerge mentally battered and emotionally broken, with a newfound or greater contempt for the other party. In a collaborative divorce, the parties set their own timeline and are ushered into the healing process and are prepared for the future in a far more gentle, cooperative way.
The ultimate goal, she said, is that “we want to get these people divorced in such a way that when their children get married, they can dance together at the wedding.”