September 22, 2014

Part I: Advocacy in the “Right-based” Court Model

140196937Parties going through a divorce need to understand that advocacy in the “rights-based” Court Model and advocacy in the “interest-based” Collaborative Model are different; and advocacy in each of these models feels different as well.  Bear with me while I examine Advocacy in the “rights-based” Court Model in Part I in preparation for discussing advocacy in the “interest-based” Collaborative Model in Part II followed by the “power of neutrality” in Part III.   Trust me, this is interesting.

In a rights-based model, “rights” are independent standards of fairness or legitimacy that are formally established in law or contract.  Usually different rights or entitlements are at stake in a particular case.  Here, each party and their attorney is playing to the decision-maker, e.g., the judge, or playing to a prediction of what the decision-maker would decide based on application of the law to the facts of the case.

Diagram - Advocacy in Rights-based Model 082814

In this case, neither party cares much about the other party’s point of view.  What matters is what the judge thinks or is predicted to think.  “Rights-based” advocacy focuses on winning and losing and defending positions, and frequently emphasizes past events.  The relationship between the parties is likely to become more adversarial, the parties becoming opponents interacting in an accusatory atmosphere.  While advocacy in this model is hard on the problem, it is also hard on the parties.

A rights-based model can sometimes accomplish what an interest-based model cannot—bring an end to the divorce.  There will always be parties and problems that cannot be resolved without a 3rd party decision-maker making a final decision or threatening to make a final decision for the parties.  But for many families, a rights-based procedure is not necessary.   A rights-based procedure should be a last resort rather than a first resort.

That was pretty interesting, right?  In Part II, I will examine advocacy in the “interest-based” Collaborative Model and how the removal of the 3rd party decision-maker makes all the difference.  In Part III, the power of neutrality is shown to be the secret ingredient to advocacy in the “interest-based” Collaborative Model.

Tonda Mattie

Tonda Mattie has been a Family Law attorney for over 30 years and has practiced exclusively Collaborative Family Law since 2006.  She has been involved in the Collaborative Law movement since 1992.  She has been past President and past Co-President of the Collaborative Law Institute (CLI) of Minnesota.  She has headed the CLI Training Committee as chair or co-chair since 2004.  She is engaged in the practice of her dreams using a collaborative process that 1) allows good people to be their best despite the crisis they are in; 2) is centered on the well-being of the children; 3) creates a safe environment for difficult conversations; 4) focuses on the future rather than on blame and past grievances; 5) identifies and meets the needs and interests of all family members; 6) empowers parties to control and create their own mutual settlement; and 7) creates a climate in which healing can begin to occur. Visit her website at

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