This is a post from Donald R. Royall, a partner in Houston firm The Royalls, P.C., a collaborative lawyer, and Vice President of the Collaborative Law Institute of Texas.
The demand for the services of a collaborative family lawyer is the result of a dramatic paradigm shift which has occurred in the thinking of much of the client/public we serve, who no longer accept that the adversarial approach is necessarily the most rational approach to the resolution of family law disputes.
Our lawyer’s duty of loyalty to our client is fundamental and remains unchanged. But why must we assume that in all issues of life that involve judicial recognition and confirmation, the legal perspective must be the dominant lens through which to view the issue? Does that perhaps simply reflect our own narrowed vision?
While seemingly counter to human nature, is it possible, for example, that paying more child support than a court would order might be something our client might want to do for perfectly good reasons that defy the simple mathematics of that decision? Could it instead reflect practical recognition of the fact that child support guidelines are some third parties’ largely irrelevant opinion on the subject, and that for some parents, the assurances that their children will have an equally appropriate standard of living with each parent, and the sense of emotional security and self esteem that that provides, is a far more valuable objective to pursue? And aren’t there some individuals among our clientele who grasp that a divorce may well end a marriage, but only an idiot would think it ends all the relationships that were created in the wake of that marriage?
Some are capable of asking themselves just how important is the quality of the relationships we have helped create and may enjoy, or must endure, for the rest of our lives? Pre-school open house or high school graduation, just how important to the child are these memories, and how important to the parent that they be happy ones? Should grandparental influence enrich precious young lives, or conflict them further? Weddings? Funerals? Christenings and baptisms, bar mitzvah and bat mitzvah? Divorce if we must, they ask themselves, but what responsibility do we have to mitigate the future impact of that decision, to minimize the unintended consequences?
We all have had clients with that capacity to “take the longer view” — to ask themselves these questions, and come up with answers that have transcended the “zero sum game” of our typical litigated approach to the breakup of a marriage.
We invite you to share examples of your client’s “longer views” with the rest of us: Please comment.