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Birmingham AL Collaborative Divorce Law Blog

Friday, April 1, 2016

Losers & Losers - Can't We All Just get Along

On the heels of our last post comparing and contrasting a scorched earth versus collaborative divorce approach, we now take a look at a prime example of the former scenario.  In an outspoken cry for sanity and reasonableness, an Ontario Superior Court Justice, Alex Pazratz, recently issued an order calling into question the litigious process of child custody disputes.

“How did this happen…How does this keep happening?  What will it take to convince angry parents that nasty and aggressive litigation never turns out well?”  These were the words Justice Pazratz wrote as he opened his order, outlining a litigation process which ultimately resulted in a 36-day trial and cost the parties $500,000.00.  Yes…you read that right – half-a-million dollars in legal fees and expenses.  A “financially disastrous” process for both the husband and the wife, wrote Pazratz.

The psychological and emotional damage done to all the parties, and especially their daughter who was caught between two warring parents, is troubling, but perhaps the saddest part is found in a 2012 e-mail penned by the father before the process unraveled.  “We are both reasonable people,” wrote the father to the mother, “and I really think we can work this out without spending $40,000 to $50,000 a piece in lawyer fees only to have a judge tell us something we could arrange ourselves.  Please, I’m begging you to be reasonable.”  If only “reasonable” had won the day.  If only someone had educated the parents on their options beyond a “win at all costs” mentality before they entered the ring. 

When parents approach divorce and child custody with a goal of “winning”, the  result is that there will be NO winners, only losers. Please don’t misunderstand us.  We aren’t saying that every divorce or custody dispute can end in a campfire sing-along where everyone holds hands and sings Kumbaya.  What we’re saying is there’s a better way than the nuclear, total-annihilation we discussed in our last post.  We see ourselves as guides through the maze of emotional, financial, familial and legal landscapes that make up a divorce or custody proceeding.  Collaboration – working toward a mutually beneficial goal – for the end result of a divorce or custody scenario where both parents remain engaged in the parenting process and the children are spared from unnecessary conflict doesn’t create a win for one side or the other.  It’s a win for everyone!

This isn’t just an appeal to litigants; it’s an appeal to our profession.  We must rise above.  Counsel well.  Don’t glove up for a 15 round heavyweight fight right from the start.  Husbands and wives, please consider – is a two to three year mudslinging event what you really want?  Is that what’s best for you, or for your children? Is that how you want to spend your life savings? At Nolan Byers, clients will not find a one size fits all approach.  Rather, every alternative is examined and ultimately, a plan and approach is individually tailored for every client.  Sometimes that means frontline battle and pulling out the heavy artillery.  But first it means seeking to understand our clients’ and crafting a process that achieves their goals with attention to the well-being of their whole family


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