There was a significant difference in the way financial professionals are used in collaborative and litigation divorces. A little over half the collaborative divorces used one financial professional, while most litigated divorces either used no financial professional or dueling financial professionals (with one for each side). This difference would happen one time in 100 by chance.
We found a similar significant difference in the pattern of how mental health professionals are used in collaborative and litigation divorces. Most of the collaborative divorces used one mental health professional, while most litigated divorces used no mental health professional, or each side hired dueling mental health experts. This difference was so statistically significant it would happen only one time in 1,ooo by chance.
We also found that male litigation clients are more likely to show signs of mental illness compared with male collaborative clients. This difference would happen four times out of 100 samples by chance. In addition, we found male litigation clients had significantly more unrealistic expectations compared with male collaborative clients. This difference would happen one time in a hundred samples by chance. All the collaborative divorces in our sample settled out of court; by contrast, the majority of litigation divorces were resolved through trial. This difference would happen less than one time in 1000 samples by chance.
No other client characteristics differentiated between the collaborative and litigation divorces. Specifically, the presence of minor children, difficulty resolving the case, the level of anger, amount of client denial, existence of female mental health problems, the realism of female client expectations, and the time needed to resolve the divorce showed no significant differences between collaborative and litigation cases.
Thus, in addition to the obvious benefits of the collaborative process, such as confidentiality, scheduling convenience, transparent communications, win-win settlement plans tailored to the needs of the family, and preserving family relations after the divorce, our results show that the collaborative process costs less than a litigated divorce and that affluent clients prefer the collaborative process over a litigated divorce when they understand their options and have an opportunity to choose.
We discovered that male clients who had mental problems or unrealistic expectations more often resolved their divorce through litigation rather than the collaborative process. It’s not clear why this happened. Perhaps their attorneys recognized the mental health issues or the unrealistic expectations and recommend litigation as the best way to resolve their divorce. Alternatively, because the male clients were impaired, they may have made poor choices. A third possible explanation is that male clients’ mental health problems and unrealistic expectations were triggered or exacerbated by the stresses of litigation.
Our results are consistent with and extend earlier findings by the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals. For example, we found that almost all collaborative divorces settle, the cost of our collaborative divorces was similar to earlier reports about the cost of collaborative divorces, and client characteristics influence the outcome of collaborative and litigation divorces.