When collaborative law proponents talk about the advantages of the process over a traditional courtroom divorce, one of the most obvious ones is that it allows couples to divorce more quickly. Going to court means waiting for a court date as well as however long the actual hearing takes, and the per-hour cost of legal representation makes court an expensive route to solve a divorce dispute — especially considering that the final result is out of your own hands, left up to a judge’s determination.
But there’s a new idea, created by two collaborative lawyers in Illinois, that takes the expediency of collaborative law to an alarming extreme. Called The Weekend Divorce, it places a divorcing couple in a hotel with two days to resolve a divorce. The lawyers draw up documents based on what the parties decide with regard to finances, parenting time, and other issues that might be in dispute, and the couple signs off on the agreement.
In this Chicago Tribune article, co-founder Sandra Young notes that knowing when the process will end as well as begin is a primary reason to opt for a weekend-long divorce.
For couples that aren’t so far apart on what they want out of their divorce, spending two dedicated days to finalizing a divorce might be the right amount of time — or, indeed, maybe even too much time. But collaborative law was never intended to be a “one size fits all” process. In fact, one of collaborative law’s advantages is that the process can be tailored for the needs of each individual case. If financial issues are challenging, involving a single collaboratively-trained financial professional, acting as a referee rather than part of an adversarial team for one party, can help get those discussions on track. If children are experiencing emotional difficulties in processing the divorce, a collaboratively-trained mental health professional can help move the divorce along while being mindful of what’s needed in the transition.
Divorce, like marriage, shouldn’t be rushed into — and while collaborative law works to get couples to the finish line, it also should acknowledge that there are sprinters and distance runners, and shouldn’t force a couple that needs more time and more reflection to sign a settlement before they’re ready.