When explaining collaborative divorce, it helps to think of an orange. It might seem the fairest way to divide an orange for two people by cutting it in half, but it might not be the best way.
We ran across a fantastic article from Dallas-based family lawyer Larry Hance earlier that helps explain collaborative divorce. Hance is one of the first Texas lawyers to add collaborative law to his practice, and it’s still an important part of the work he’s doing at Hance Law Group.
The article recounts a story he heard at his first-ever collaborative training, about two women who are fighting over a orange. Both women want the orange, and someone steps in to help them settle the dispute by cutting the orange in half. But that “solution” doesn’t satisfy either of them. As Hance recalls, “It turns out the first woman wanted all of the peel as an ingredient for baking a cake, and the second woman wanted all of the juice inside the orange to drink.”
He goes on to note, “The parable illustrates the importance of knowing why each person in a dispute wants the item in question. If the friend knew what both women wanted, he could have divided the orange in a less obvious way than cutting it in half, but in a way that would have satisfied both their concerns.”
The story illustrates that if you know what each person wants going into a dispute, you’re better able to determine a solution based on that information. In litigation, a judge might decide to divide an asset that is better left whole, or might arrive at a parenting plan that both parents find challenging to adhere to. At the end of the day, a judge is trying to determine an outcome that allows the case to conclude, regardless of what the divorcing couple might really want.
Collaborative law, by contrast, asks each person in a divorce what’s really important to him or her, as well as what’s best for the children, and seeks a settlement that factors those priorities into the equation. For the women in the story, what made them happiest — dividing the orange so one could have the peel and one could have the juice — wasn’t the most obvious way to divide the orange, and might not even appear to be a fair or equal division. But collaborative law has a process that allows for those sometimes unorthodox solutions to be discovered, drawn up into a decree, and mutually agreed upon.