Most of my clients in the first meeting ask me, "Do I have to go to court? " They are concerned that court appearances will be needed to get a divorce, see their children after they move out of their home or receive support payments from their spouse. I explain to my new clients that my role is to help guide them to reach peaceful, practical and cost conscious solutions without going to court.
Recently I represented the husband in a divorce with two preschool aged sons. He and his wife were unable to speak to each other without getting into a fight. They both agreed that they did not want to go to court and believed it would be best to resolve their divorce the collaborative way. The wife also hired a collaborative attorney and the four of us met to help them resolve the issues involved in their case. Being able to communicate with each other about their children was very important, but very difficult for them. After the first two meetings both attorneys were needed less and the couple started to be able resolve small problems together. At each subsequent meeting the mother and father of these young children learned how to communicate with each other. When we got to signing the agreement the attorneys were no longer needed to help them talk about their children. Even though the couple has divorced, they both continue to be great parents, are no longer fighting with each other and are excellent role models for their children.
For me collaborative law is the "best of both worlds". I get to work with another experienced family law attorney, advocate for my clients, model communication skills, be creative and draft agreements that help families move on with their lives in a positive way. Even if a case is not collaborative, I still use collaborative techniques in all of my cases to help the parties move to resolution. The focus is on my clients' goals, interests and concerns for their family. We work together to minimize conflict leading to better relationships with a high priority on the family and the best interest of the children.
Six years ago was the first time I heard about Collaborative Law. It was during my first conversation with Joanne Kleiner, an experienced family law attorney. One of us was representing the husband and the other was the attorney for the wife. Joanne explained her client's position and I talked about how we could develop solutions together, beneficial for both of our clients. We went back and forth with this for several minutes until Joanne called a time out. She asked me, "Do you know that you are a collaborative lawyer?" And I responded, "What is a collaborative lawyer?"
As Joanne explained, I focused on negotiation and settlement and I was looking for solutions to both of our clients' problems instead of simply focusing on my client's position. I took collaborative training as soon as it was given locally. Ever since my training in 2005, I have been offering collaborative law as an option to my clients. Collaborative Divorce is all about compromise and provides the smoothest and quickest way to help a family get through a divorce. My goal is to help my clients avoid the stress, trauma and expense of litigating their family law problems. As a collaborative attorney I help my clients move forward with their lives with a new positive approach.
Bonnie Raynes, Esquire is a sole practitioner with offices in Langhorne and Willow Grove, Pennsylvania. She represents clients, mediates custody disputes and acts as collaborative counsel in family law matters including divorce, support, custody and equitable distribution in Montgomery, Bucks and Philadelphia counties. She may be reached at (215)830-1439 and firstname.lastname@example.org.