October 8, 2014

Part II – Advocacy in the “Interest-Based” Collaborative Model

82830939In Part I we learned that “rights-based” advocacy in the Court Model is hard on the problem but also hard on the people. Advocacy in the “interest-based” Collaborative Model is also hard on the problem, but SOFT on the people. How is this possible?

In the Collaborative Model, the parties voluntarily agree to reach a settlement outside of court. Thus the 3rd party decision-maker, e.g., the judge, is removed from the collaborative process. Instead, the decision-maker is the parties themselves!

Circle Diagram for Collab Model 082814

In order to reach a settlement, the parties must consider and honor the other party’s perspective. In the Collaborative Model, advocacy is not about the position a client takes on a particular issue, but about meeting the future needs, interests, and goals that are defined by the couple themselves. By framing the problem in terms of needs, interests and goals, parties are likely to see their dispute as a mutual problem that they must work together to solve. They now answer the question: how do we both get our needs and interests met? How does our family get its needs and interests met?

Advocacy in the Collaborative Model encourages parties to look behind their opposed positions to determine the motivating interests. In doing so, the parties often find alternative solutions that meet the needs of both sides. Collaborative advocacy pays attention to balance, listening and being creative. Collaborative advocacy creates an incentive to work together, acknowledge the other, to be authentic and realistic. This kind of collaboration can occur only in an atmosphere that is respectful, transparent, and mutual; and one that incentivizes caring about the other party’s point of view with the removal of the 3rd party decision-maker. While being hard on the problem and soft on the people seems to be a contradiction, it is this contradiction that promotes better settlements and preserves needed relationships. Who knew that removing the 3rd party decision-maker could make such a difference!

In Part III, I will explore how the power of neutrality is the secret sauce to a successful collaborative divorce.

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 www.mndivorce.com.

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