For people facing divorce, a common question is whether Collaborative cases are "cheaper than litigation". While there is no way to compare a specific Collaborative case to an abstract idea of a litigated case, we can say that Collaborative Law will avoid a lot of the expense involved in litigation.
Attorneys will often talk about how the Collaborative process can save money for clients. In most cases and in most ways, I believe that is true. However, many people take an unjustified conclusion from that discussion even though we can’t say what the cost would be. They start to believe that Collaborative Law is a cheap process. That conclusion is unwarranted and unsupportable because it is so subjective. What is cheap to one person may be outrageously expensive to another.
Since we can’t really answer whether Collaborative cases are cheaper, here’s a better question.
Is Collaborative Law worth the cost?
1. Consider what’s at stake. Family relationships and decisions about how to raise your children — you can’t put a price tag on that. Most people would make those issues their priority. Having expert help in reaching creative and unique decisions to meet your circumstances would be welcome by most everyone.
With a long-term marriage and substantial assets or business interests, you want to be sure that your money is well-spent finding solutions. Many people who have accumulated real estate, investments and business interests need expert guidance to unravel or divide up the assets. It is unrealistic to think that what may have been accumulated over many years pursuant to an evolving investment plan can be quickly and cheaply divided in an appropriate, beneficial and agreeable manner.
2. Think about being cost-effective in gathering information. It’s very easy in litigation to spend a lot of money going through standard discovery steps that generate attorneys’ and experts’ fees without getting much information that is really essential for the decision-making on the financial issues. In litigation, each side often has his/her own set of experts and the process amounts to both sides setting up a battle of experts. In most cases, it makes better sense to use a single neutral expert to guide the parties in gathering, organizing and understanding information. In addition, if appraisals need to be done, or tax advice is needed, a neutral expert can also be hired for each of those issues. It’s still cheaper to use one expert for each need rather than having each side hire their own
3. How important is it for you to make the decisions on your finances? For people who have successfully managed their own affairs and created wealth through their hard work, knowledge and experience, it is difficult to give up control over their finances. Would you rather make your own careful decisions on dividing things up or let a judge who doesn’t know or care about your family make arbitrary decisions on how to divide the assets?
In most cases, in my view, Collaborative Law is worth the cost. It is a flexible process that allows you to just focus on what is important and necessary, rather than having the parties follow standardized steps that often result in far more work than is justified. In cases without children and without substantial assets, Collaborative Law may not be necessary, but even then, it is still a much more civilized way to go through the process, and that may be priceless!